The Creative Endeavors Thread Honors… Honore Daumier

This is the space for our members to discuss and share their creative projects, ranging from written works to drawings, photography, and even craft projects such as knitting and woodworking. Self promotion is welcome (websites where we can view and/or purchase your work). Please do continue to preface if content is NSFW and be sure to properly spoiler/link such content.

Honore Daumier (1808-79) was a French illustrator, painter, and sculptor whose satirical vision and critical view of France’s political and cultural travails during the turbulent nineteenth century not only helped define posterity’s views on the era but also set a benchmark for caricature and realist art that would influence both art and journalism for decades to come.

Born in Marseille, his father’s ambitions and fitful influence helped propel him into the hothouse world of French periodicals, where the young Daumier quickly mastered the new art of lithography and set it ablaze with corcuscating looks at the bourgeoisie, which Daumier correctly identified as the real power in French society, especially after the July Revolution of 1830 and the accession of Louis-Philippe to the French throne.

Louis-Philippe as Gargantua; thanks to whoever in the History Thread first posted this.

Daumier’s suspicion of the latter was confirmed with laws curtailing freedom of the press (including his own artwork; he was imprisoned for six months in 1832) and though he necessarily withdrew his attention from the monarchy, he fell with redoubled effort on the middle classes who provided it with the majority of its support. Bankers, politicians, and protonuclear families were all lampooned with varying degrees of sympathy or cruelty.

And occasionally literary; I’m particularly fond of this one from 1839 (and wish I had a better image)–“You see here the great figures of literary, musical, and artistic France, they are all 36 feet below sea level…”–it’s almost like the foundational document for Glen Baxter.

Daumier’s other media both softened and hardened his attitudes. His sculptures, generally of avaricious, conniving politicans, aristocrats, and bankers, are bony, twisted, demonic figures that could have come out of a comedic nightmare (thoughtfully evoked by Philip Kennicott in this piece from The Washington Post of a few months back), while his paintings, by contrast, are often sympathetic and contemplative studies of people quietly adrift in a perpetually and frenziedly new society.

The Third-Class Carriage (c. 1864), one of the most famous and empathetic of Daumier’s paintings.

The latter are on view in, among other places, at the National Gallery in Washington, DC (the sculptures) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (The Third-Class Carriage).

The more I get to know Daumier’s work, the more I like it. He’s more sympathetic and technically subtle than, say, Hogarth, in a way that accounts for their different centuries and situations, and even in cases when his satirical fire can strike a understandably discordant note with audiences today (his apparent irritation with “bluestockings”), an intent to mock often comes across (for me, at least) as an unintentionally ennobling approach reveling in the sheer humanity of the figures. Leafing through an old collection I picked up a couple of years back has helped do more than a little in the last few days to light the creative fires.

How’s your work going?