London – “Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris” at Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, through January 26th 2014

December 20th, 2013

Honoré Daumier, The Sideshow (Parade de Saltimbanques) (1865-66) Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

On view at the Royal Academy of Arts is an exhibition of 130 works by 19th century artist Honoré Daumier, composed primarily of paintings, drawings, watercolors, and sculptures, that strengthen the artist’s history as both a perceptive and nuanced painter, as well as a truly comic satirist.

Honoré Daumier, The Laundress (La Sortie du bateau à lessive) (1861-63) Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

Born in 1808 in Marseille, Daumier was a draftsman, printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor, and he produced an enormous body of work, including over 500 paintings, 400 lithographs, 1000 wood engravings, 1000 drawings, and 100 sculptures. During his lifetime, he was better known for his caricatures and political satires, masterful depictions of politicians and public figures that unfolded with comic tension, but he has since gained recognition internationally for his paintings as well.

Honoré Daumier, The Print Collector (Les Amateur d’estampes) (1857-63), Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

In 1832, Daumier was imprisoned for six months for his caricature of the king as Gargantua in a comic journal La Caricature, which was started by caricaturist and journalist Charles Philipon. This event caused the publication to fold soon afterward, and Philipon initiated a new publication called Le Charivari, for which Daumier produced the majority of his caricatures of the bourgeois society.

Honoré Daumier, Mr. Barthe, La Caricature (18 July 1833), Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

Daumier also created many sculptures from unbaked clay, and only after his death were they cast in bronze in order to preserve them. The sculptures included busts of French members of Parliament, as well as some baked clay “Figurines.”

Honoré Daumier,Gargantua, La Caricature (16 December 1831) Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

Daumier’s paintings focused on direct portrayals of realities he observed in his immediate surroundings in the 19th century in France, and it is for these images that he is best known; however, he also created images from the Bible and Don Quixote. Although he created over 500 oil paintings, it was only a year before his death did Daumier gain any recognition for his paintings, when Paul Durand-Ruel presented his works in an exhibition.

Honoré Daumier, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (Don Quichotte et Sancho Panza) (1870) Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

The exhibition presents works by Daumier in a chronological order, ranging from 1830 to 1879, including his portrayal of fugitives of the cholera epidemic, street entertainers in his neighborhood, and later, his interpretation of the role of spectators and collectors in the art world. Tracing the artist’s intertwined loves of the great classics and the darkest segments of French society, the show is a brilliant introduction to his work.

Honoré Daumier, A. Carrier-Belleuse (1863) Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

This exhibition marks the first time since 1961 that Daumier’s lithographs have been displayed in the UK.  Daumier’s works can be seen at major art institutions around the world, including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Rijksmuseum. Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris will remain on view through January 26, 2014.

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Royal Academy of Arts]