Saturday, July 19, 2008

Satirist Par Excellence

With all the discussion this week about satirical cartoons in the media (!!), it seems a good time to share a wonderful website devoted to the graphic work of Honoré Daumier, the brilliant satirist whose 200th birthday was celebrated earlier this year. Daumier's pen chided, lampooned, and highlighted the political and social events of his day; pictured here, for example is an 1864 image commenting on the state of Parisian public transportation (omnibuses were a favorite subject). On the Honoré Daumier website, you can not only read about Daumier's contributions and enjoy the work posted by the webmasters, but also click to enter the Daumier Register, where you can search virtually the entire Daumier graphic corpus and see images. It's a fantastic resource.

Vincent was a huge fan of Daumier's work, not surprising given his own left-leaning politics, sense of social populism, and his longstanding interest in graphic illustration. (Van Gogh actually intended first to become a graphic illustrator, not a painter!) Many times in his letters, Vincent mentions something he's seen or is working on and evokes Daumier. In writing to artist friend Émile Bernard about a portrait he did of postman Joseph Roulin, Vincent says happily, "What a motif to paint in the manner of Daumier, eh?" In addition to admiring Daumier's subject matter, Vincent admired his artistic style, able to get at the essence of a subject in minimal lines and strokes.


Julianne Douglas said...

My dad had a series of Daumier prints featuring lawyers hanging in the upstairs hallway of my childhood home. I'll always remember sneaking past them to get to my room after curfew. :)

Margaret said...

Sad to say, but I'd never heard of Daumier before, though I've seen his prints. This was really informative. Thanks for the link!

By the way, Sheramy, I'm looking for some info on symbolism in art. Is there any book you would recommend as a jumping off point?



Sheramy said...

Julianne--that's awesome! LOL!

Margaret--Glad you enjoyed the post and the website I linked to. Daumier is not very well known, although I think his work sometimes feels very "today"!! As regards books..."symbolism in art" is a huge topic. Is there a specific kind of symbolism that interests you (eg Christian, mythological...) or are you looking more for a book on methodology, eg how to interpret symbols and iconography? Or a dictionary of symbols in art? If you could be a little more specific, I ought to be able to recommend something.

Thanks for stopping by, you two!!

Margaret said...

Since I mostly look at the Pre-Raphaelites, I'm interested in christian and mythological symbolism. I probably would need to start with a dictionary of symbolism in art and maybe something on how to interpret them. Any ideas?

Sheramy said...

Hmm. There's a book called something like Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, which I don't own but have seen in bookstore. Back when I was a student there was a book called From Abacus to Zeus which was a dictionary type of book, but I don't know if it's still in print. For Christian art I like the Oxford Companion to Christian Art, which is set up like an encyclopedia (how this book compares to A Dictionary of Christian Art, also from Oxford and cheaper on Amazon, I don't know). For Greek myth, I have something in my office I can recommend but I can't for the life of me remember the title. I hope I can remember to look Tuesday. :-) There are actually quite a number of reference works on myth. There's one called Gods and Heroes in Art which is pretty good.

As for interpreting and how to do it--there are quite a few new books along that line. One of my students showed me a book called How to Read a Painting that looked good for that (I haven't read it myself). I recommend to the students Sylvan Barnet's Short Guide to Writing About Art, which includes good info about analyzing art, but it's geared toward writing. The more recent editions of that are better than the older ones. There's another book called "Look! Art History Fundamentals" which I saw on publisher website recently, which looks good.

Hope that helps!

Margaret said...

Thank you so much, Sheramy.

This definitely gives me a place to start, I appreciate it!

Have a great week!