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Gustave Doré

Aug - 15 - 2013

Paul Gustave DoréPaul Gustave Doré (Born: 06 January 1832; Strasbourg, France; Died: 23 January 1883; Paris, France) was a French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor. Doré worked primarily with wood engraving.

Gustave Doré, the second of the three children of Pierre Louis Christophe Doré, an engineer, and his wife, Alexandrine Marie Anne Pluchart, was born in Strasbourg on 6th January 1832. His biographer, David Kerr, has pointed out: “A child prodigy, Doré received little formal artistic training, but his talents as a draughtsman were already apparent during his school years.”

Seven years later, he began carving in cement. Subsequently, as a young man, he began work as a literary illustrator in Paris, winning commissions to depict scenes from books by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.
Gustave Dore was a prolific engraver, artist, illustrator, and sculptor, working primarily as a wood and steel engraver. He produced over 100,000 sketches in his lifetime, and lived to be 50 years old, averaging 6 sketches per day for each day he lived. By the time he died he had also earned over $2 million, living a life of affluence. Even though he was an untrained, self-taught artist, who never used a live model, and who could not sketch from nature, his work is considered some of the most important in the entire engraving art world.

Don Quixote and Sancho Setting Out

Don Quixote and Sancho Setting Out, 1863

Gustave Doré was a world famous 19th century illustrator. Although he illustrated over 200 books, some with more than 400 plates, he is primarily known for his illustrations to The Divine Comedy, particularly The Inferno, his illustrations to Don Quixote, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.
Planned by Doré as early as 1855, the Dante illustrations were the first in a series he referred to as the “chefs-d’oeuvre de la littérature.” In addition to Dante, Doré’s list of illustrated great works included Homer, Ossian, Byron, Goethe, Racine, and Corneille. The placement of Dante’s Commedia at the top of this list reflects the poet’s popularity within mainstream French culture by the 1850s. While France’s initial interest in Dante was confined to the episodes of Paolo and Francesca and Ugolino, the 19th century saw an expansion of interest in Dante’s work which resulted in numerous translations of the Commedia into French, critical studies,newspapers, and specialized journals, and over 200 works of painting and sculpture between 1800-1930. Doré’s choice of Dante’sInferno as the first of his proposed series of illustrated masterpieces of literature reflects the extent to which Dante had attained popular appeal in France by the 1860s.

The wrestle of Jacob

The wrestle of Jacob, 1855

In 1856 he produced twelve folio-size illustrations of The Legend of The Wandering Jew for a short poem which Pierre-Jean de Ranger had derived from a novel of Eugène Sue of 1845.
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. Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.
Doré’s illustrations for the English 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.
Gustave Doré continued to illustrate books until his death on 23rd January 1883.
Of Doré’s literary series, few enjoyed as great a success as his Commedia illustrations. Characterized by an eclectic mix of Michelangelesque nudes, northern traditions of sublime landscape, and elements of popular culture, Doré’s Dante illustrations were considered among his crowning achievements– a perfect match of the artist’s skill and the poet’s vivid visual imagination. As one critic wrote in 1861 upon publication of the illustrated Inferno: “we are inclined to believe that the conception and the interpretation come from the same source, that Dante and Gustave Doré are communicating by occult and solemn conversations the secret of this Hell plowed by their souls, traveled, explored by them in every sense.”

    • Born: 06 January 1832; Strasbourg, France
    • Died: 23 January 1883; Paris, France
    • Field: painting, illustration, engraving
    • Nationality: French
    • Art Movement: Romanticism

Resources on the Internet

A brief biography of the artist and artwork

A brief biography of the artist and artwork

Gustave Doré : Biography

Gustave Doré Gallery

A brief biography of the artist and artwork

Artist Biography and Works-Wikipedia

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