Honore Daumier has been part of the “Canon” forever; it seems he was possibly born into it, an artist’s artist, his own pinnacle. Daumier was a painter, sculptor and lithographer. Most importantly he was a social satirist of the highest order. The numbers he acquired are staggering; 4,000 lithographs, 1,000 each of drawings and wood engravings, 500 paintings and 100 sculptures. An impressive feat for an artist of any era. Daumier was to be influential for generations.
The artist to immediately follow him, especially those to study and work in France including Lautrec, Manet, Degas and the young Picasso show his influence. The works of many American cartoonist and illustrators including Brad Holland, Jules Feiffer, Pat Oliphant, Chuck Jones and Tim Burton are testament to the Daumier wit and style. The Daumier legacy is rich, there wonderful elements to his imaginings and his technique was sound.
Daumier’s work can be viewed as both High and Low Art. His subjects also were high and low; the bourgeois, the working/poor classes, government leaders, and especially judges and lawyers were targets of his satire. He reported the worlds he inhabited and the art world connoisseurs and critics were not lost to his efforts, they are represented by Daumier with the same virtuosity and vigorous vanity. His lines were graceful, elegant and grand.
The works are beautiful to behold and equal to the test of time and scrutiny. He was imprisoned briefly for a scathing remorseless depiction of the king titled “Gargantua.” This incarceration failed to soften his social critiques. Daumier would continue to work and spared no one; creating brilliant things throughout his life until his eventual loss of sight.
Ironically it was a year before his death that he would be recognized for his masterful and original paintings. France has given the world many greats. Daumier…decidedly, dangerously dissident!