The life and times of Gustave Doré

The following is an interactive look at key events during the artists’ life
Gustave Doré Doré’s Milieu in France

1824

Works by contemporary British painters such as John Constable (1776–1837) are exhibited at the Salon, along with Eugène Delacroix’s (1798–1863) Massacre at Chios (Louvre).

1830–1870

The Barbizon School of landscape painting flourishes. Influenced by 17th-century Dutch masters, these painters turn away from idealized classical landscapes in favour of direct observation of nature.

1832

Louis Auguste Gustave Doré is born in Strasbourg on 6 January.

1837

Doré starts at the Vergnette School, in Strasbourg, where he makes his first caricatures.

1839

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851) exhibits a photographic image produced on a silver-coated copper plate with iodine vapours, which he calls the daguerreotype.

1840's

The Realist movement begins as a reaction to Romanticism and history painting, rejecting exotic subjects and exaggerated emotionalism. Realist painters like Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) portrayed ordinary people of all classes in typical surroundings.

1845

At age 13, his first lithographs, The Brou Fête, are published by local printers, Ceyzériat.

1847

Doré’s first album of lithographs, The Labours of Hercules, is published.
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Youthful Endeavours: Satirical and Popular Reporter
In the earlier stages of Doré’s career, he drew satirical caricatures for the press. His work has contributed to the development of the comic strip and modern graphic novels.

Gustave Doré, Communism in Pictures. Published in Journal pour rire, no. 22, 1 July 1848. Lithograph; 61.2 × 43.8 cm. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2007 (PML 129872)

1848

Doré becomes an official staff member of the Journal pour Rire, where he works for three years.

1849

His father, Pierre Louis Christophe Doré passes away.
He makes his first painting: A Fisherman Mooring His Boat before a Storm, and meets Nadar (1820–1910), who plays an important role in promoting his career.

1850

At age 18, Doré exhibits his first painting, Wild Pines, at the Salon.

1853

Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820–1910), known as Nadar, opens a photographic studio that becomes a hub for the most renowned personalities of the day.

1853

He exhibits his oil painting, Two Mothers, at the Salon, and meets artist Gustave Courbet (1819–1877).

1854

The publication of the Works of François Rabelais marks the beginning of Doré’s renown as an illustrator of literary classics.

1857

Doré exhibits ten paintings at the Salon and receives an honourable mention for The Battle of Inkerman.
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Picturesque and Sublime Landscapes
Doré painted large and atmospheric landscapes throughout his career, especially after the 1860s. The rugged and mountainous landscapes of the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Scottish Highlands were favoured settings. These appealed to North American collectors and many landscapes can be found in public and private collections on this side of the Atlantic.

Gustave Doré, Landscape with the Pyrenees, c. 1860. Oil on canvas, 95.3 × 179.5 cm. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. S.T. Laufer 1991 (AGNS 1991.39). Photo: Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
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Literary Imagination
From the fairy tales and fables of Perrault and La Fontaine to the epic poems of Dante and Tennyson, from the satires of Rabelais to the melancholic and foreboding visions of Poe, Doré is probably best known for his illustrations of the classics. His vivid and extraordinary imagination can be seen in his drawings and watercolours, preparatory sketches for book illustrations, individual prints, illustrated books and monumental paintings.

Gustave Doré, Dante and Virgil in the Ninth Circle of Hell, 1861. Oil on canvas, 315 × 450 cm. Musée du monastère royal de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse (982.234). Photo: Hugo Maertens, Bruges

1861

Dante’s Inferno is published by Hachette with Doré’s illustations and marks a turning point in his career.
Doré presents the monumental painting, Dante and Virgil in the Ninth Circle of Hell.
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Between Heaven and Earth: Ambition and Downfall
Doré had exceptional talents! He worked in a variety of media such as drawing, print, painting and sculpture, including several large, spectacular pieces. Throughout his career, he was fascinated with themes of love and sacrifice, death, artistic inspiration, fame, glory and misery.

Gustave Doré, Between Heaven and Earth, 1862. Oil on canvas, 61 × 51 cm. Collection of the Musées de Belfort (D.1925.2.10). Photo: Musée d’art et d’histoire, Belfort, France / Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library

1862

He travels through Spain and conducts research for the illustration of Don Quixote (1863)
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“Painter-Preacher”: Art as Religion
Religious iconography preoccupied Doré after completing an immense project: a two-volume edition of the Bible with over 200 illustrations. It became the subject for some of his largest canvases, many of which were exhibited at the Doré Gallery in London, where he received more critical acclaim than in his native France, and where he was given the title “painter-preacher.”

Gustave Doré, The Deluge, c. 1862–65. Pencil, black chalk and wash heightened with white on paper; 72.4 × 61 cm. Phoenix Art Museum, museum purchase (1964.205). Photo © Phoenix Art Museum. All rights reserved

1863

The Salon des Refusés is established for the exhibition of works rejected by the Salon jury and includes pictures by artists such as Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and Édouard Manet (1832–1883).
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Visions of Spain and London
Doré captured agrarian Spain and metropolitan London, two poles in the European 19th-century cultural imagination. The exotic Iberian Peninsula, a Mediterranean gateway to North Africa and land of the gypsy, untouched by industrialization, is contrasted with the bleak poverty in the industrial metropolis of Victorian London.

Gustave Doré, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Entertained by Basil and Quiteria, c. 1863 (?). Oil on canvas, 92.1 × 73 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. William A. McFadden and Mrs. Giles Whiting, 1928 (28.113). Photo: Art Resource, NY / © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Literary Imagination
From the fairy tales of Perrault and La Fontaine to the poems of Dante and Tennyson, from the satires of Rabelais to the foreboding visions of Poe, Doré is best known for his illustrations of the classics. His vivid imagination can be seen in his drawings, watercolours, preparatory sketches for book illustrations, prints, illustrated books and monumental paintings.

Gustave Doré, “Help! Help! The Marquis of Carabas is drowning!,” 1864. Frontispiece for Le Maître chat ou Le Chat botté [The Master Cat or Puss in Boots]. Published in Contes [Fairy Tales], by Charles Perrault. Wood engraving, engraved by Adolphe François Pannemaker (1822–1900). Hetzel, Paris; folio, 44.2 × 33.1 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969 (69.708.32). Photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

1864

At the centre of Parisian life and in demand in high society and musical circles, Doré is invited by Napoleon III to visit the court at Compiègne.

1865

His first religious painting, The Angel Appearing to Tobias, is purchased at the Salon by the French government for 2,000 francs.

1866

His reputation is firmly established in Britain with the publication of his illustrations in Sainte Bible (Holy Bible) and in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
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Literary Imagination
From the fairy tales and fables of Perrault and La Fontaine to the epic poems of Dante and Tennyson, from the satires of Rabelais to the melancholic and foreboding visions of Poe, Doré is probably best known for his illustrations of the classics. His vivid and extraordinary imagination can be seen in his drawings and watercolours, preparatory sketches for book illustrations, individual prints, illustrated books and monumental paintings.

Gustave Doré, The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism, 1867-68. Oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm. Art Gallery of Hamilton, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002 (2002.33.18). Photo: Art Gallery of Hamilton

1867

Doré illustrates Fables by Jean de La Fontaine and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
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Literary Imagination

The Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871): L’Année terrible
From the fairy tales and fables of Perrault and La Fontaine to the epic poems of Dante and Tennyson, from the satires of Rabelais to the melancholic and foreboding visions of Poe, Doré is probably best known for his illustrations of the classics. His vivid and extraordinary imagination can be seen in his drawings and watercolours, preparatory sketches for book illustrations, individual prints, illustrated books and monumental paintings.

Gustave Doré, The Ant and the Grasshopper, c. 1868. Preparatory drawing for Fables, by Jean de La Fontaine. Pen and ink, wash and white gouache on wood, 18.8 × 24.6 cm. Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Strasbourg (XXXIII.90). Photo: Musées de Strasbourg

1868

The Doré Gallery is opened in London, dedicated to his work and he is commissioned to paint the huge Triumph of Christianity.
He completes the illustration of The Divine Comedy (Purgatorio and Paradiso).

1870

The Franco-Prussian War breaks out, ending with the defeat of France in 1871

1870

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Doré volunteers for the National Guard.
He divides his time between Paris and London, and once the war is over, he continues to vacation in the Alps.
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The Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871): L’Année terrible
For the duration of the Franco-Prussian War, Doré used his pencil and his brush to depict the great devastation of Paris during the siege, and the loss of his native Alsace. He elevated the French cause to the level of allegory in his great triptych of The Black Eagle of Prussia, The Enigma and The Defence of Paris.

Gustave Doré, The Enigma, 1871. Oil on canvas, 130 × 195.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 1982-68). Photo: Patrice Schmidt / © RMN-Grand Palais

1872

He begins practising sculpture and creates his large copperplate etching The Neophyte.

1873

He takes a ten-week trip to Scotland where he begins to work in watercolour.

1874

The first of eight exhibitions of Impressionist painting is held in Nadar’s studio in Paris, featuring works by artists such as Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Edgar Degas (1834–1917). The Impressionists are interested in themes from modern life, usually painting landscape and genre subjects with broken colour and loose brushwork.
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Between Heaven and Earth: Ambition and Downfall
Doré had exceptional talents! He worked in a variety of media such as drawing, print, painting and sculpture, including several large, spectacular pieces. Throughout his career, he was fascinated with themes of love and sacrifice, death, artistic inspiration, fame, glory and misery.

Gustave Doré, The Street Performers, 1874. Oil on canvas, 224 × 184 cm. Collection of the Musée d’art Roger-Quilliot, Ville de Clermont-Ferrand (2714). Photo © Josse / Leemage
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Picturesque and Sublime Landscapes
Doré painted large and atmospheric landscapes throughout his career, especially after the 1860s. The rugged and mountainous landscapes of the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Scottish Highlands were favoured settings. These appealed to North American collectors and many landscapes can be found in public and private collections on this side of the Atlantic.

Gustave Doré, Souvenir of Loch Lomond, 1875. Oil on canvas, 131 × 196 cm. French & Company, New York. Photo: French & Company, New York
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Picturesque and Sublime Landscapes
Doré painted large and atmospheric landscapes throughout his career, especially after the 1860s. The rugged and mountainous landscapes of the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Scottish Highlands were favoured settings. These appealed to North American collectors and many landscapes can be found in public and private collections on this side of the Atlantic.

Gustave Doré, Lake in Scotland after a Storm, 1875–78. Oil on canvas, 90 × 130 cm. Musée de Grenoble. Gift of Dr Fuzier, 1880 (MG 711). Photo © Musée de Grenoble

1876

He illustrates the English classic, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a project he finances himself.
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Discover this artwork in the following theme of the exhibition

Between Heaven and Earth: Ambition and Downfall
Doré had exceptional talents! He worked in a variety of media such as drawing, print, painting and sculpture, including several large, spectacular pieces. Throughout his career, he was fascinated with themes of love and sacrifice, death, artistic inspiration, fame, glory and misery.

Gustave Doré, The Poem of the Vine, 1877–82. Bronze, 396.2 × 208.3 × 208.3 cm. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Gift of M.H. de Young (53696). Photo: Benjamin Blackwell

1877

At the Salon, Doré exhibits his first major sculptural group, Fate and Love, which is well received.
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Literary Imagination
From the fairy tales and fables of Perrault and La Fontaine to the epic poems of Dante and Tennyson, from the satires of Rabelais to the melancholic and foreboding visions of Poe, Doré is probably best known for his illustrations of the classics. His vivid and extraordinary imagination can be seen in his drawings and watercolours, preparatory sketches for book illustrations, individual prints, illustrated books and monumental paintings.

Gustave Doré, Oceanids, c. 1878. Oil on canvas, 127 × 185.4 cm. Lawrence B. Berenson

1878

He submits monumental works to the Salon, including religious paintings and his sculptural group, Fame.
Doré, who is asthmatic, begins to suffer attacks of the angina.
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Discover this artwork in the following theme of the exhibition

Between Heaven and Earth: Ambition and Downfall
Doré had exceptional talents! He worked in a variety of media such as drawing, print, painting and sculpture, including several large, spectacular pieces. Throughout his career, he was fascinated with themes of love and sacrifice, death, artistic inspiration, fame, glory and misery.

Gustave Doré, Fame Stifling Genius, 1878. Plaster, 255 × 163 × 146 cm. Musée Henri-Boez, Maubeuge (885.1.4). Photo © Cliché ville de Maubeuge

1879

Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, Doré’s last major illustration project of 618 images is published in France.
His drawings are reproduced through a relief photoengraving process, instead of as wood or steel engravings.

1880s

Post-Impressionism is a reaction against Impressionism, led by Cézanne, Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) and Georges Seurat (1859–1891). They reject Impressionism’s concern with spontaneous and naturalistic rendering of light and colour, preferring symbolic content, formal order and arrangement.

1880

Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) is commissioned to create a sculptural portal for a planned museum of decorative arts (never realized); he chooses Dante’s Inferno as the subject.
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“Painter-Preacher”: Art as Religion
Religious iconography preoccupied Doré after completing an immense project: a two-volume edition of the Bible with over 200 illustrations. It became the subject for some of his largest canvases, many of which were exhibited at the Doré Gallery in London, where he received more critical acclaim than in his native France, and where he was given the title “painter-preacher.”

Gustave Doré, The Neophyte, c. 1880–89. Oil on canvas, 243.8 × 308.9 cm. Courtesy of the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, City Art Collection (P-429). Image owned by the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. Robert Berger Photography

1880

Doré’s sculpture of the Madonna wins a third class medal at the Salon.
His mother dies on 15 March.
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Discover this artwork in the following theme of the exhibition

“Painter-Preacher”: Art as Religion
Religious iconography preoccupied Doré after completing an immense project: a two-volume edition of the Bible with over 200 illustrations. It became the subject for some of his largest canvases, many of which were exhibited at the Doré Gallery in London, where he received more critical acclaim than in his native France, and where he was given the title “painter-preacher.”

Gustave Doré, The Monk's Dream, 1880. Oil on canvas, 241.5 × 303 cm. Art Gallery of Hamilton. Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002 (2002.33.19). Photo: Art Gallery of Hamilton
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Discover this artwork in the following theme of the exhibition

Literary Imagination
From the fairy tales and fables of Perrault and La Fontaine to the epic poems of Dante and Tennyson, from the satires of Rabelais to the melancholic and foreboding visions of Poe, Doré is probably best known for his illustrations of the classics. His vivid and extraordinary imagination can be seen in his drawings and watercolours, preparatory sketches for book illustrations, individual prints, illustrated books and monumental paintings.

Gustave Doré, Fairy Land, 1881. Watercolour heightened with gouache over graphite, 64.8 × 89 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection (1938.1959). Photo © The Art Institute of Chicago

1883

Doré suffers a violent attack of angina and dies on 23 January.
An edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven with 26 large illustrations by Doré is published posthumously.

1886

Seurat uses a technique known as Pointillism, in which small patches or dots of colours are juxtaposed to produce a visual harmony when viewed from a distance, placing him at the forefront of the Neo-Impressionist movement, with Paul Signac (1863–1935) and Lucien Pissarro (1863–1944).

1886–1906

Neo-Impressionism is an avant-garde art movement led by Georges Seurat, where artists reject the impulsiveness of Impressionism in for a calculated painting technique based on contemporary studies of optics.

1888

In Brittany, artists Gauguin and Émile Bernard (1868–1941) produce paintings of simplified, levelled shapes created in bold, unaltered colours; defining the term, “Synthetism,” which is Symbolist in the way it expresses ideas outside of depicting the visual world.

1888

A group of young artists form the Nabis, from the Hebrew word for “prophet,” to promote decorative painting inspired by Gauguin’s Synthetist model.
Organized by the National Gallery of Canada in collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

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