Daumier, Honore

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Honoré Daumier, the great French cartoonist of the 1800's, was also a fine painter and sculptor. But the world remembers him best for his many pictures that made fun of French life and politics.

Born in Marseille on February 26, 1808, Daumier moved to Paris with his family in 1816. Because the family was poor, Daumier had no formal education. He worked first as an errand boy in a law court, then as a bookseller. He always loved to draw.

After becoming a lithographer, Daumier began to draw caricatures--drawings that exaggerate and make people look ridiculous--for the newspapers and magazines of Paris. His drawings made fun of the political figures of France and called attention to the weaknesses and dishonesty of government officials. One of Daumier's caricatures was so insulting to King Louis Philippe that Daumier was sentenced to six months in prison.

In 1835 the French government forbade the publication of political cartoons. Daumier then began to make drawings that satirized the social customs of his day. He ridiculed lawyers, middle-class society, and people in the theater. His work was popular, but he was paid little. He did about 4,000 lithographs.

During the 1840's, Daumier turned to painting and sculpture, but even today he is best known for his caricatures. His eyesight failing, he lived his last years in extreme poverty in a cottage outside Paris. He died on February 11, 1879.

Reviewed by Edward J. Sullivan
New York University

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