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Honoré Daumier

French Painter, Sculptor, Printmaker, Caricaturist

Honoré Daumier Photo
Movements and Styles: Romanticism, Realism

Born: February 26, 1808 - Marseille, France

Died: February 10, 1879 - Valmondois, France

"One must be of one's own time."

Honoré Daumier Signature

Summary of Honoré Daumier

The witty caricatures of Honoré Daumier made him one of the most widely recognized social and political commentators of his day and even landed him in jail for insulting the reigning monarch. Daumier's caricatures stand out as his most successful works, yet he remains unrecognized for the impressive diversity of his art as he produced not only the lithographs for which he is famous but also drawings, oil and watercolor paintings, and sculpture. Daumier pioneered a style of Realism that focused on people of all echelons of society and spared few, with the exception of the working class and the poor, from his sharp wit and scrutinizing eye. He lived in Paris during a period of political and social unrest, which included two revolutions as well as frequent regime changes, a war, and a siege. Many of his works confronted the complex social, political, and economic consequences of the turmoil. Perhaps his greatest contribution to modern art was his ability to capture even the simplest moments in life and infuse them with emotion.

Key Ideas

Daumier's painting style echoes that of Francisco Goya, Eugène Delacroix, and Théodore Géricault with its loose, expressive brushwork. Eschewing the controlled and polished surfaces of Neoclassical painting, he and other Romantic artists imbued their work with emotion - in many cases, high drama. Unlike most Romantic painters, however, his work is devoid of sentimentality but neither did he convey the kind of emotional distance of Realists like Courbet. Thus, recent day critics and art historians tend to regard his painting style as a sort of precursor to Expressionism.
While Daumier produced hundreds of small sculptures in unbaked clay, often painting them with oil pigments, very few reached what might be regarded as a finished state. Those works that were cast in plaster, typically with the help of more experienced sculptor friends (even after his death), have been far easier to preserve and provide insight into his sculptural process.
For an artist so revered and influential, Daumier's life was characterized by struggle - with his increasing blindness, illness, and poverty. He received a small pension from the government starting in 1877 so he was able to survive. Thanks to the intervention of and patronage of another esteemed friend, Victor Hugo, an exhibition of Daumier's work was held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel and he received proceeds from the sales.
Honoré Daumier Photo

Although born in the South of France in the port city of Marseille, Honoré-Victorin Daumier spent his life primarily in Paris. His parents, Jean-Baptiste Louis Daumier and Cecile Catherine Philippe relocated their family to Paris in 1814 when young Daumier was only six. Jean-Baptiste, who was a glazier by profession, aspired to be published as a poet and thus was drawn to the French capital where he stood a far greater chance of being recognized for his literary skills.

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