World Premiere: First Major Retrospective of Honore Daumier, the "Michalangelo of the People", Opens at the National Gallery of Canada on 11 June
Ottawa, Canada - May 19, 1999
The National Gallery of Canada proudly presents the world premiere of a major retrospective of the renowned French artist Honoré Daumier, on view from 11 June to 6 September 1999. This first-ever full retrospective of Daumier's creative production since his death in 1879 features more than 300 works, including paintings, watercolours, drawings, lithographs, and sculptures, as well as many of the famous caricatures that demonstrate Daumier's caustic wit. The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux/ Musée d'Orsay, Paris, and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
The exhibition presents a thorough examination of Daumier's prodigious artistic production over the course of a fifty year career, with stunning examples of his work on loan from world-renowned public and
important private collections from around the world. Over the course of his working life, Daumier produced an astounding 4,000 lithographs, over 250 paintings, in excess of 800 drawings, and some 1,000 woodcuts. During his career, Daumier portrayed a panoramic view of Parisian life and events: the world of courthouses and the stage, strolling performers and clowns, the working people and the middle class, travellers on public transport, victims of war...all masterfully captured with a telling gesture or expression, and for which he was known as a "painter of the people" and a "painter of his time", in a splendid variety of artistic mediums. He also depicted favourite themes from literature, from Don Quixote by Cervantes or from Molière's theatre, sometimes with an intense visionary sense.
" This important retrospective of Daumier's extensive creative artistry will be a revelation to those visitors who know of him only through his caricatures or drawings, and will be a rewarding confirmation of his
exceptional production for those more familiar with his many accomplishments," stated Pierre Theberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. " We are delighted to collaborate once again with our colleagues at the Musée d'Orsay and at The Phillips Collection in launching this spectacular premiere exhibition in Ottawa."
Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) lived and worked at a time of extraordinary social and political change in France. He was born in Marseille, the third of five children of a dealer of frames with literary ambitions.
In 1815 his father moved to Paris to seek his fortune as a writer and his family followed a year later, living in the most abject poverty. In 1822 he took drawing lessons from Alexandre Lenoir, a well-known artist and archaeologist, and subsequently sketched in his spare time at the Académie Suisse and at the Louvre. Prodigiously talented, at age fourteen he experimented with lithography and it soon became obvious that he had the gift of accurate observation and an almost superhuman memory. By the 1830s, he worked as a professional artist, and had begun modelling sculpture. It was not until the late 1840s that he achieved a small amount of recognition as a painter and sculptor, and not until shortly before his death that his achievements in watercolour and oil painting became more widely known. About 1850-51 he modelled the figure of Ratapoil, now universally considered one of the most significant sculptures of the nineteenth century, then embarked on a set of reliefs, and conceived several ambitious paintings in which he displayed an essentially dramatic genius. By 1857, in a much quoted piece of criticism, Baudelaire called him "one of the most important men not only in caricature but in the whole of modern art". As such, Daumier found himself in a remarkable position, simultaneously a major artist admired by the most serious of critics and working in the newspapers for the widest public as "the Michelangelo of the people" - as quoted by Balzac, literary giant of the time. Even Picasso, when he entered the Sistine Chapel for the first time to view the extraordinary ceiling paintings by Michelangelo, remarked "It was like a vast sketch by Daumier".
To view this exhibition is to step back in time and capture Paris and France in its most extraordinary historical evolution. Daumier's career encompassed some of the most tumultuous developments in the country's history, and his initial fame was due to his vast œuvre of nearly five thousand satirical prints on political and social themes. The publication in 1831 of a daring caricature of King Louis-Philippe (depicted as Rabelais's gluttonous giant Gargantua ) led to a notorious trial and imprisonment, turning Daumier into an instant celebrity and history's most famous example of the prosecution of an artist by the state.
Daumier was among the handful of artists who have had the most profound impact on modern art and is considered a forerunner of Impressionism. His influence can be seen in the work of Manet,
Monet, Renoir, and Degas, his most fervent admirer, who owned at one time 1,800 of his lithographs.
Daumier also had an influence on later artists such as Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso.
The National Gallery of Canada gratefully acknowledges the sponsorship of Air France, CBC, Radio-Canada and The Château Laurier.
A fully-illustrated colour booklet and an audioguide have been produced in English and French editions and are available in the Great Hall. An excellent program of lectures, workshops, and daycamp activities has been organized to complement the exhibition. Please call the National Gallery for information or consult our Web site at http://national.gallery.ca/. Following its presentation in Ottawa, Daumier will travel to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris from 5 October 1999 - 3 January 2000 and to the The Phillips Collection, Washington, from19 February - 14 May 2000.
Daumier is presented concurrently with Van Gogh's Irises: Masterpiece in Focus, on view from 11 June to 19 September. Tickets are time and date specific, and permit entry to both exhibitions. They may be purchased in person at the National Gallery of Canada or by telephone at (613) 998-8888 or toll-free 1-888-541-8888. Service charges apply. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and free to visitors under 18 years of age. The exhibitions will be open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, and beginning 1 July, until 8 pm on Thursdays. Guided tours are available every morning, in French at 9:40 am and in English at 9:50 am. Please call the ticket purchase number to make reservations.
A media preview will take place on Wednesday 9 June at 10 am in the Great Hall. A tour of the exhibition by Michael Pantazzi, Associate Curator of European and America Art and organizer of the exhibition for the National Gallery, will be followed by a luncheon. Viewing continues until 4 pm.
The National Gallery of Canada celebrates The Year of La Francophonie in Canada.
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