Saturday, March 16, 2013

Honoré Daumier: Caricatures and Pipe Smokers

Honoré Daumier was born in the port of Marseille February 26, 1808.

He moved with his parents to Paris in 1816 where his career as a political caricaturist started in 1830 when he joined the daily illustrated newspaper called La Caricature.

Contemporary commentators describe him as good natured and shy, most at ease smoking his pipe, rowing on the Seine, or drinking cheap wine and talking with friends.

La caricature was founded by Philipon and backed by Honoré de Balzac who wrote the original pamphlet and contributed under various pseudonyms over thirty articles for the paper.

Daguerrotype of Honoré de Balzac by Nadar in 1842

 publishing stinging caricatures of the French King Louis-Philippe (1830-1848),

"King Louis Philippe"1839  

by Franz Xaver Winterhalter - Oil

The past the present and the future by Daumier

getting fined in Court,

The caricature of King Louis Philippe as Gargantua sitting on the "throne", was the last stroke that broke the camel's back for King Louis Philippe,

Gargantua, Honoré Daumier , 1831

and in February 1932 Daumier, the owner of the publishing house, and the printer, were all brought to trial for arousing hatred and contempt of the king's government, and for offending the king's person. In the trial the argument was over whether "Gargantua" represented the king personally or if it was a symbolic representation of the king's swollen budget. All three of the men were convicted, Daumier was the only one who served a prison term (six months).

Undeterred, upon his release from jail, he joined Le Charivari, a reincarnation of La Caricature, and started to publish daily satire of the foibles of this world, starting with the King and a legislative branch fraught with corruption.

Le Charivari magazine published 27 February 1834 on its cover the text of the judgement of a lawsuit against it in the form of a pear

In 1835 after political caricatures were declared illegal, he turned to exposing the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie and the corruption of the legal profession.

- There you go: you’ve got your private means, I’ve become a doctor, and he’s
become a lion. – What’s that? – It’s a sort of animal. – Hush, he could hear us!
- Don’t worry, he has no teeth left: it’s an old lion.

Ratapoil with his new toy

Honore Daumier: Bust of a Legislator, 1830s, Hirschorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

He would contribute to the illustrated newspaper until 1863.  

No one famous would escape his sharp pen as Victor Hugo found out after he spoke to the French parliament on 9 July 1849 to address the issue of "Eradicating Poverty".

« Détruire la misère » 

Discours à l'Assemblée nationale législative, 9 juillet 1849

© Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée nationale - Photo Irène Andréani

Victor Hugo in 1849 by Daumier

"An American speaker  proves in an irrefutable manner that the only way to bring peace to mankind is to force all men to wear, just like him, a green hat that they will never part with except at bedtime. No one even dares to challenge this opinion." by Daumier on 7 September 1849 in Le Charivari. Victor Hugo is first on the left.

A year later, Daumier had his picture taken by Lainé to celebrate the end of the reign of his nemesis, Louis-Philippe and the twenty or so lawsuits the King had filed against the newspaper over the years.

Honoré Daumier in 1850. Source: Histoire des artistes vivants, français et étrangers, peintres, sculpteurs, architectes, graveurs, photographes : études d'après nature

In the caricature Daumier drew a few years later we get a feel for what painful experience it must have been to pose for the photographer given the exposure time of photographic processes in the early days...

New method for getting gracious poses...Daumier, 1856

In 1862, Daumier drew a caricature of his close friend the photographer Nadar, himself a contributor to Le Charivari, expressing his admiration for Nadar's ability to elevate photography to the level of Art.

"NADAR élevant la Photographie à la hauteur de l'Art" (NADAR elevating Photography to the Height of Art).
Lithograph by Daumier published in Le Boulevard, 1862.

Life after Louis-Philippe did not bring smoother sailing for Daumier. When Louis Napoléon Bonaparte came to power he was fully aware of the damages public ridicule had inflicted on his predecessor and he arranged to have new laws enacted that prevented the press from criticizing the government.

Portrait of Napoleon III (1808-1873) in 1855 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter,  Museo Napoleonico, Rome

Out of his prodigious production of prints, lithographs, drawings, etchings and sculptures, Daumier drew caricatures where the characters are smokers. 

LA PIPE MATINALE. Le Tabac de caporal fait maintenant partie intégrale de ce que les poëtes appellent les suaves parfums du matin; et grâce aux bouffées que lui envoyent de toutes parts les fumeurs, l'aurore, jadis au teint de rose, doit être bien près d'être culottée., Damier, 1841

The first Pipe, Daumier, 1844

You insulted me!...You owe me an explanation, Daumier, 1844


Le vrai Fumeur. - The true smoker,
Published in: Le Charivari, January 31, 1837.

Fourth graders trying to be rethoricians, Daumier, 1846

"Smoke. Son. Smoke. Only a pipe distinguishes man from beast." Daumier, 1847

Les fumeurs de hashish
Ah! quel plaisir oriental Il me semble que je trotte sur un chameau! Et moi,…je crois recevoir une bastonnade
- Ah! What an Oriental pleasure I am starting to feel, I have the sensation that I am riding a camel! - and me I believe I am being beaten with baseball bats (
notice the chibouk style of the pipes),
 Daumier, 1845

Barleycorn and burns - Honoré Daumier

FUMEURS ET PRISEURS. - Il ne faut pas croire que tous les chinois s'abrutissent avec de l'opium, non une foule de gens et surtout dans la bonne société, font consister le souverain bonheur a fumer et a priser une certaine feuille dont l'aspect est assez désagréable, mais dont le goût est fort repoussant - comme cette feuille se récolte sur une plante nommée nicotine on a été naturellement porté à l'appeler tabac., Daumier, 1844

Towards the latter part of his life, Daumier would favor drawing portraits and paintings of Don Quichote,

perhaps the very symbol of a life spent fighting the windmills of corruption and ignorance with pencil and brushes.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic narrative of Daumier's caricatures as well as his life and the legal issues he faced as a Comic Artist. This would be a nice article to feature on Fine Art Comics: ... thank you!