Paul Gustave Dore
While accompanying his father and older brother in Paris, Gustave discovered the allure of Paris and made known his intention to remain and pursue his career as an artist (Hubbard 5-8). His work is generally considered as Romanticism and he has been labeled one of the greatest illustrators of his time. His lack of formal training created both derision among art critics and a cult following among common people who could relate to his work. He possessed a grasp of what would be popular among the common folks of his time and a flair for the dramatics in his works.
It could be said that the Parisian Art world did not side with him because he did not struggle or starve as most artist did and his financial success was a threat to the very core of Art (McWilliam 829-830). His was a time of great discovery, both scientific and artistic, and an industrial revolution the likes of which gave wealth to the very few. When he abandoned caricature work, he did try to redeem himself but, could not break the yoke of commercial production and its promise of wealth (Hubbard 5-8).
His inability to sway his critics and peers in his birthplace and formative city (Paris) forced him to ply his wares in England and across the Atlantic to the United States. Gustave Dore became the darling of England and America, and managed to make millions during his half century of life and produced a staggering amount of sketches. At one point of his career as an illustrator, he employed forty blockcutters (WebMuseum 1). Gustave Dore dabbled in both painting and sculpture during his later years and was purported to be a violinist and tenor singer (Hubbard 5-8).
The work of Gustave Dore is both loved and spurned during his lifetime but, he certainly maintained a life of wealth his father could not have made and he owed it all to his prodigious pencil. The following works by Gustave Dore, we will examine his favored subjects and themes that showed the suffering of poor people and presented these in surrounding treatment that emphasized those suffering. . Extracted from a book by Blanchard Jerrold and illustrated by Gustave Dore. The book was commissioned as a type of guide through the many streets and venues of London, in essence a Tourist Book (Spartacus. choolnet. co. uk). Instead it became a rendition of the lower class and their plight. A story in the Port Cities: Leisure, health and housing – Social conditions in the 19th-century Website cites the following: An artist’s impression of poverty For those whose imaginations could not be stirred by social commentators like Booth and Mearns, the French artist Gustave Dore (1832-1883) visited London and produced horrific illustrations of life in the port areas that shocked public opinion. Although a commercial success, many of the critics disliked his work.
The critics’ reaction Several critics were angry that Dore had appeared to focus on the poverty that existed on the waterfront, rather than on the finer aspects of life in the metropolis. He was accused by the Art Journal of ‘inventing rather than copying’. Completely missing the point, The Westminster Review complained that ‘Dore gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down’. (PortCities London. org) Analysis of Formal Elements – One of the most fundamental elements of art is line. [Sayre 82] 1Variety and Quality of Lines
Homeless people of London deadened on a bench, third quarter 19th century Figure 1 – Museum of Louvre department of the Graphic arts, © Museums of France, 1998 Dore’s pencil drawing shows a clear outline of each figure with the use of a heavier line and the details using lighter lines. The implied and contour lines in the garments indicate worn use and filth. The vertical and horizontal rendering on the bench enables the viewer to perceive a seating area made of stone thereby heightening the plight of the homeless and impoverished that is depicted here.
The development of each subject is made through the use of foreshortening and perspective. The foreshortening implies a reclining figure surrounded by seated figures. The perception of three dimensions is brought about through the use of reserve, or white background of the paper, on the standing baby and the face of the sleeping girl with a hat. The darker rendering of the other subjects suggest repose while the highlighted baby is awake. The cross hatching and hatching of the garments in uneven manner depicts clothing that is disheveled, worn, and filthy.
Couple and Two Children Sleeping on a London Bridge Figure 1 – http://www. bergercollection. org/artwork_detail. php? i=167# Dore in Figure 2 now uses a more expressive line in the treatment of the subjects and dark heavy graduated in weight to specify large folds in the clothing and the edge lip of the bench, shown as details in Figure 3 and 4. A sepia wash is used to introduce as a possible element of a darkening sky dotted with white spots indicating stars. To the upper left of the figures is a depiction of crosses faintly visible implying the mast of tall ships thereby implying a port in the distance?
The stone bench is still presented by straight vertical and horizontal lines but as opposed to Figure 1, it now shows details such as cracks that normally propagate in stone material. All the figures are dark and disheveled in appearance. Their clothing is depicted in an unkempt appearance and the scene shows a sense of separation from the upper class society because of the way they are lying on the bench, even though they are presented in a manner of dress inure to the upper class. My first impression was a family waiting for transportation to where I do not know after a night out on the town.
Normally figures, during that century, waiting for transportation are sitting upright. Dore does not address in his drawing here the same condition as Figure 1. When I first saw this work, I chose not to look at the title and make some preconceived notion as to what was being depicted. When I noticed the implied ship mast in the background, which setup the next perception as a port, it inherently supported my theory of awaiting transportation. Alas, it was not correct and this may shed some light into Dore’s eventual illustration in Figure 5 of the same scene depicting a more impoverished set of subjects on a bench awaiting the light of day.
Included as a reference to the depiction of poor vs. wealthy is Figure 6, one of just a few of the drawings the publisher thought would be prevalent in the book. Figure 1 – http://www. bergercollection. org/artwork_detail. php? i=167# Figure 2 – http://www. bergercollection. org/artwork_detail. php? i=167# London: A Pilgrimage, Asleep Under the Stars Figure 1 – http://www. cf. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html London: A Pilgrimage, A Ball at the Mansion House Figure 2 – http://www. cf. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html 2Spatial Strategy
A Whitechapel Coffeehouse Figure 3 Use of a frontal recession, street level linear perspective is tantamount to depicting the main figures in this almost monochromatic painting. Dore’s lines are generalized and are meant to capture immediately the scene in its moment. The central figures show a more upright and important stance than the outlying supporting subjects. Their turned bodies show an intense attention to the entrance of these key figures. The key figures wardrobe is straight and the outlying figures show crumpled clothing which may imply poverty.
It is not until the illustration in Figure 7 that the sense of desperation among the non-central figures is clearly delineated. It is also in this illustration that the claustrophic effect that Dore is famous for is in full effect. The painting shows a more elevated perspective than the illustration. I have started to question Dore’s intent in the production of these illustrations. Even though his name is clearly on the lower left corner on most prints, the blockcutters name is on the lower right. This clearly implies an employer to employee relationship and does not necessarily imply apprenticeship.
The distinct change from study or conceptual drawing to print supports this remark. London: A Pilgrimage, A Whitechapel Coffeehouse Figure 4 – http://www. cf. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html 3Light and Color The Charity of the fishmongers: study in a district of London, 4th quarter 19th century Figure 1– Museum of Louvre department of the Graphic arts, © Museums of France, 1998 Dore produced this work five years after the release of the illustrated book London: A Pilgrimage. His rendering of color does not lend itself well to translating key formal elements.
Why he chose to color the gathering of men in red is in contradiction to the clear shaft of white light shining on the fishmonger and children. The gathering of men looks to be outside due to the street pole with what may be gaslights. It is reported that Dore was color blind and was not adept at color shading (Malan 1). If it were not for the title I may have mistook this as a gathering of children at a fish market with their caretaker. Under closer scrutiny it shows the children as lacking shoes and wearing torn soiled clothing. 4Texture and Pattern London: A Pilgrimage, Houndsditch Figure 2 – http://www. f. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html London: A Pilgrimage, Found in the Street Figure 3 – http://www. cf. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html Here again his lack of training shows through on the use of light, shading and shadows. His surrounding treatment is far below his work illustrating Dante’s Inferno or the Bible. Looking at Figure 10 gives the impression that the candle is giving off more light than it is truly capable of producing. There is also an imbalance to the scene because of the light. Artistic license aside, I prefer George de la Tours rendering in Joseph the Carpenter [Sayre 175].
The Figures clearly show the impoverished condition that has befallen the subjects in the picture and shows, as if in a photograph, the dire predicament that requires immediate intervention 5Comparisons The well meaning Dore did have influences during his formative years and it came about through his beginnings as a caricature artist. Artist like Grandville was admired enough by Dore that he went to him for advice on matters concerning his art. Dore studied closely the work of the first comic strip artist Rodolphe Toepher and this may have created a caricature memory strategy that was difficult to overcome (Duncum 97, 98).
Lion Devouring a Rabbit Figure 1 – Eugene DelaCroix DelaCroix’s lion bears a more realistic representation of the animal than the one Gustave Dore’s illustrated on the cover drawing (Figure 15) for the book London: A Pilgrimage. Dore’s lion seems to melt into the surrounding environment and the foreshortening of the front paw and rear paw are not in keeping with the rules of perspective. Hercules at the Crossroads Figure 2 – Albrecht Durer (Germany) circa 1498 London: A Pilgrimage, Gustave Dore Figure 3 – http://www. cf. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html
Albrecht Durer’s treatment of the muscular human male may seem to fall within the same realm as Dore’s human male in his cover drawing but, it shows Dore’s lack of formal training in the way the back muscles are rendered. Durer studied human anatomy extensively including bone structure, which I believe Dore did not fully grasp. London: A Pilgrimage, Newgate Exercise Yard Figure 4 – http://www. cf. ac. uk/encap/skilton/illustr/index. html There have been questions in the art world as to the influence of Dore on other artist; one in particular is Van Gogh who referred to him as the Artist of the People (Study Light Org). ” Van Gogh had produced a picture called “Prison Yard” and it was presented without reference to being after a major artist and this was not acceptable. The critic clearly states the resemblance of the picture to Dore’s above in Figure 17 and describes it as “a tolerably literal rendering of an illustration by Gustave Dore. ” He does continue to deride Dore with the continuing remark “It seems as if Van Gogh had discerned, as others have, an occasional article of value in the rubbish-heap of Dore’s production (R. S. 250). This is but one example of Dore’s place in the Art Critics of his time. His development of the illustrations for the book London: A Pilgrimage brought about the issues of the paupers and homeless (Smith 997-1032). Smith projects the impression of France’s workhouses as being equal to the dreadful pictures of London in Gustave Dore’s book. In conclusion Gustave Dore succeeded in presenting to the populace at hand on the issues of poverty through study sketches that were transformed into illustrations. His rendered illustrations clearly showed the large divide between the wealthy and the poor.
His handsomely paid commission did not affect what he saw as blight in society. His participation in this particular commissioned work allowed him to perform a service that could not be ignored, and his focus on the plight of the paupers created a controversy that most artists during his time could afford (Grew 204). The many sketches he made for this project is not readily encompassed by this study and many scholars are still building a repertoire of research into a man who turned a commercially paid venture into a social statement, which will provide students and teachers with questions still unanswered.