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Doré, Gustave

Category: Artist and sculptor

Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré ( 6 January 1832 – 23 January 1883) was a French artist,  a painter, an engraver and an illustrator. 

He is best known as one of the finest book illustrators of the nineteenth century, but he was also a painter and sculptor of international repute. His illustrated Bible, first published in 1865, has appeared in over 700 editions, and in its day was the most successful book in the world.  He also sculpted in stone and did wood engraving. 

He is on the site partly because his belief in visionary spiritual experience as a form of inspiration was total, and partly because he was blessed with the gift of perfect perception recall.  He was a left hander.

[Left: Dore by Nadar]

As quoted in Gabriel Delanne - Materials for use in the study of Reincarnation

Some have a highly developed visual memory, such as the painters Horace Vernet, or Gustave Doré, who could paint a portrait from memory; in others, it is the musical sense that reaches a very high degree of perfection, such as Mozart who noted the Miserere de la Chapelle Sixtine after only hearing it twice.

The government of France made him a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1861.

Below Les Oceanides  Les Naiades de la mer.  Right Andromeda

Work

Doré was a prolific artist.  A more complete list of his works can be found on Wikipedia, however, Doré may be best known for the work he did illustrating the works of Dante and The Divine Comedy etc.   Doré's later work included illustrations for new editions of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and The Works of Thomas Hood.

He was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world-renowned, with some justification, they are beautifully executed, realistic, extremely detailed and vibrant and show great skill.  He captured landscapes exceptionally well, his series of Scotland in particular is stunning.  But his woodcuts and engravings, are where he is now believed to have excelled as an artist, because of their imaginative and visionary quality. 

Doré had a remarkable ability, whatever the medium or method, to capture Darkness and Light – light and shade, even in his fairy tales, and the contrast of the two.  The pictures and scenes he produced were moody and atmospheric, they captured the emotion not just the scene.  In Dante’s Paradiso, the angels are ethereal like congealed white Light.  He must have had very clear visions of the scenes he ‘saw’ because the detail is extraordinary, yet give you the overall atmosphere of the place at the same time.  Dore illustrated:

  • Les Contes drolatiques (1855) – by Honoré de Balzac
  • Baron von Münchhausen (1862)
  • Don Quixote de la Mancha (1863) - In the 1860s he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters.  The tale of Don Quijote clearly appealed to Doré, and in the end he drew around 500 illustrations for this book
  • The Divine Comedy – Dante; Inferno; Purgatorio; Paradiso.  The Divine Comedy tells of the poet Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise in search of salvation. Before he is redeemed by his love for the heavenly Beatrice, he in effect goes to hell [Inferno].  Gustave Dore's classic engravings were made for an 1867 publication.
  • Gargantua and Pantagruel - He illustrated "Gargantua et Pantagruel" by Rabelais in 1854.
  • Idylls of the King  - Tennyson's poem
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Coleridge’s poem
  • The Bible - In 1853 Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated Bible.  Doré's illustrations for the Bible (1866) were a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Bond Street, London
  • John Milton's Paradise Lost  - 50 plates produced in 1866
  • Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso
  • Perrault's Fairy Tales (1867) - Doré illustrated several fairy tales: Cendrillon (or Cinderella), and Little Red Riding Hood amongst others, but each time the illustration was quite dark and alarming.  Some children would quite likely have been quite frightened by his interpretations of the myths, his wolf was no sanitised fluffy toy wolf, but a very realistic wolf with ferocious teeth.
    [left Doré_par_Cattelain_Le_Hanneton]
  • Wandering Jew  - In 1856 he produced 12 folio-size illustrations of The Legend of The Wandering Jew
  • The Raven - Doré illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", an endeavour that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883
  • Crusades - Interestingly, Dore chose to include drawings of Crusade troubadours singing the glories of the crusades.  This was a work of pure imagination
  • Jean de La Fontaine's fables
  • London: A Pilgrimage - In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. The pictures are indeed bleak.  London life is displayed in all its ugliness, the poverty of flower sellers, the overcrowding as seen from the newly installed railways [for example the engraving Over London by Rail c 1870. From London: A Pilgrimage], the fog, the grimness of street life.  The completed book London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial and popular success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics, principally it seems because Doré had not put a rosy tint over a grim situation and depicted the poverty exactly as it was.  Some went into denial - Doré was accused by The Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying".  Some accused him of bias -  The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down".  Interestingly, the book was a financial success. [right: Flower  Sellers  of London
    Below Houndsditch

Beliefs

As one can see from the books he chose to illustrate, Dore was a firm believer in Christianity as well as mythical and spiritual subjects. 

Right: The Triumph Of Christianity Over Paganism

Interestingly, the engravings became more frequent in the books he illustrated, the more they fired his imagination and presumably came closer to his beliefs. 

He painted numerous extremely dramatic and very large canvases related to the life of Jesus:  For example

  •  La Sainte Trinite
  • Ecce Homo
  • Le Christ quittant le prétoire 1867–72

One can see from the emotion with which the subjects are painted that Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré was a fervent believer in religion and the subjects he depicted.

There is passion in these paintings, they are not simply a commission, they are belief in action.

[Below Le Christ quittant le prétoire-Gustave_Doré]

Life and death

Doré was born in Strasbourg on 6 January 1832. By age 5 he was being classified as an artistic child prodigy, creating drawings that were ‘mature beyond his years’.  At the age of 15, Doré began his career working as a caricaturist for the French paper Le journal pour rire. Wood engraving was his primary method at this time.  In the late 1840s and early 1850s, Doré made several ‘text comics’, but subsequently went on to win commissions to depict scenes from books by Cervantes, Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, and Dante.

[Left Carolus-Duran, Portrait de Gustave Doré, Strasbourg MAMCS]

Doré never married and, following the death of his father in 1849, when he was only 17, he continued to live with his mother, illustrating books until his death in Paris, aged only 51, following a short illness. At the time of his death in 1883, he was working on illustrations for an edition of Shakespeare's plays.

Below: Enigma

 

 

Observations

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