Honoré Daumier

"So here I am at Pélagie, a charming resting-spot where not everybody enjoys themselves. But me, I enjoy myself here, if only to be contrary... apart from that, prison will not leave me with any painful memory, quite the contrary... I am working four times as hard in lodgings as I did when I was at home with my papa. I am overwhelmed and tyrannized by a crowd of citizens who make me draw their portraits... Don't talk politics, because letters are unsealed."

- Daumier, writing from the prison of Sainte-Pélagie to his friend Jeanron (Genron) on Oct. 8, 1832; published in Arsène Alexandre, H. Daumier. L'homme et l'oeuvre (Paris, H. Laurens, 1888), pp. 54-55.

Honoré Daumier excelled publicly as a professional caricaturist for French satirical publications. In private life, he was an innovative painter, whose lively paintings were acclaimed after his death. Daumier's lithographic caricatures, hard-hitting criticisms of contemporary government and society, were magnificently drawn. He was among the first French artists to sculpt caricatures.

Daumier acquired his sympathy for poor and oppressed people while working as a boy for a bailiff. He studied drawing in Paris, with Alexandre Lenoir and at the Académie Suisse. Daumier learned lithography as an assistant to the lithographer Béliard, and may have picked up the basics of oil painting from his father, a glazier and frame-maker who sometimes restored pictures. Daumier's unorthodox technique, advanced for its time, suggests that he was largely self-taught (Man on a Rope, 1860). He painted mostly for his own pleasure. His early paintings include copies of Rubens and Millet.

Born in Marseilles, Daumier moved to Paris in 1816. From 1832, the satirical newspaper La Caricature (later Le Charivari) published his lithographs attacking King Louis-Philippe's government. These brought Daumier six months in prison in 1832-33. Undaunted, he produced large-format lithographs for the Association mensuelle , (Rue Transnonain, le 15 avril 1834). After the government banned political caricature in 1835, Daumier targeted French society in almost 4,000 caricature lithographs, and drawings for woodcuts (Three Judges at a Hearing, drawing). His paintings depict similar subjects (The Third-Class Carriage, 1863-1865)., as well as mythology and literature. He sculpted terracotta caricatures of politicians and statuettes of their supporters. Daumier died poor, despite support by Corot and Victor Hugo.

Étienne Carjat
Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)
c. 1872, printed c. 1965

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