Digital Commonwealth

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879). Lithographs, Woodcuts, and Other Prints

Boston Public Library

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The career of Honoré Daumier (French, 1808-1879) spanned one of the most turbulent periods in French history, including the Revolution of 1830, the Revolution of 1848, the rise of Napoleon III, and the Franco-Prussian War. Daumier established a reputation as a painter and a sculptor, as well as a printmaker. However, it was through his lithographs that his talents as an artist and as a political and social commentator were fully realized.

Born in Marseille in 1808, Daumier’s family moved to Paris is 1814, where he became an apprentice to the lithographer Charles Ramelet. Beginning in 1830, individual lithographs by Daumier were being published. By 1832, he became a regular contributor to La Caricature, the weekly journal established in 1830 by the anti-monarchist publisher Charles Philipon, and to Le Charivari, the daily journal established by Philipon in 1832. Philipon was forced to cease publication of La Caricature in 1835 due to the heavy censorship fines levied by the government on that publication, but Daumier continued his collaboration with Le Charivari from 1833 until 1872. During his prolific career, Daumier also produced individual prints and illustrations for books and various other journals.

Boston Public Library’s collection of works by Daumier includes his early caricatures of King Louis-Philippe and other political figures, as well as plates from his later series, including L’Histoire Ancienne, Les Bons Bourgeois, Les Gens de Justice, and Actualites. Of particular interest are a number of white paper proofs, which had to be submitted to the government censor for approval before an image could be published.

Although a number of Daumier lithographs and bound volumes of La Caricature came to the library as part of the gift of Albert H. Wiggin in 1941, the majority of the library’s Daumier collection was acquired in 1948 when the Library purchased the collection assembled by the French collector, Albert Maroni (1852-1923), and his heirs.

Critical funding to support long-term preservation of and enhanced public access to Boston Public Library collections, including this one, was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

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