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Summary Article: Daumier, Honoré Victorin
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French artist. His sharply dramatic and satirical cartoons dissected Parisian society. He produced over 4,000 lithographs and, mainly after 1860, powerful, sardonic oil paintings that were little appreciated in his lifetime.

Daumier drew for La Caricature, Charivari, and other periodicals. He created several fictitious stereotypes of contemporary figures and was once imprisoned for an attack on King Louis Philippe. His paintings show a fluent technique and a mainly monochrome palette. He also produced sculptures of his caricatures, such as the bronze statuette of Ratapoil (c. 1850; Louvre, Paris).

The son of a picture framer. He went to Paris in youth and worked as a professional lithographer and satirical draughtsman. Joining the staff of La Caricature 1831, he became noted for his attacks on the July Monarchy, and his caricature of Louis Philippe as Gargantua swallowing the pence of the poor led to his imprisonment for six months 1833. Later, as contributor to Charivari, he widened his range to give a satirical picture of bourgeois society in general. A masterpiece of political satire is his Ventre législatif (1834), with its fantastic array of ministers; of serious comment is his lithograph of massacred civilians, La rue Transnonain (1834). The law and lawyers incited him to brilliantly vitriolic sketches, as also the pomposities, absurdities and meannesses of middle-class life. In caricature he showed something of the sculptor's vision, and modelled little clay figures which he adapted in his lithographs, retaining sculptural contrast of light and shade. When he was about 40, however, he turned to painting, perhaps on the advice of his painter friends of the Barbizon School, and in this art achieved greatness in a dramatic simplification and concentration on tone. A realist in subject (if we except the Don Quixote theme, which had a special fascination for him), he painted scenes of everyday life and was particularly drawn towards the theatre and to railway travel, his several versions of the Third Class Carriage showing at once his feeling for the group and for the isolation of the individual within it. He had studied Rembrandt in the Louvre but he has a closer affinity in style with the later paintings of Goya. The affinity with Goya may also be found in his graphic work. Daumier gradually lost his sight and died almost blind in the little house his friend Corot provided for him at Valmondois, Seine-et-Oise.


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