15 December 2013

Daumier at the Royal Academy

Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris at the Royal Academy is apparently the first Honoré Daumier exhibition in London since the early 1960s. He is probably best known to British eyes as a lithographer who provided a sharp political and social commentary during a particularly turbulent period of French history (see below). Gargantua 1831 (below left) satirizes King Louis-Phillipe, while Nadar elevating photography to art 1862 (below, right) is a commentary on the aerial photography craze which Julian Barnes touched on in his recent Levels of Life.
The RA’s exhibition reveals that  Daumier could also turn his hands to political caricature in the form of clay busts and sculpture, as well as watercolours (The Sideshow (Parade de saltimbanques), c.1865–66 in the poster above) and oil paintings acceptable to the Salon (The Laundress, (La Sortie du bateau à lessive), 1861–63) and The Painter at His Easel (Le Peintre devant son tableau), c.1870–1875 (below, left and right).

Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris continues at the RA until 26 January 2014.

Anyone visiting Paris in the next few months and interested in the mainstream of the artist’s work should take the chance to see Les Parisiens de Daumier, sponsored by the Crédit Mutuel de Paris at their gallery in the Marais (details on their website, poster above). There are plenty of examples of his drawings for magazines (Le Charivari in particular) satirising contemporary Parisian life. Some depict a world that is now almost unrecognisable, others seem oddly familiar - La crinoline finnisant par être soupçonnée (below, right) should amuse anyone who has been through a security check in the last ten years. The Head of Louis-Phillipe in the form of a pear (Tête de Louis-Phillipe en forme de poire), 1840 (below, left), from the musée Carnavalet, would have been worth borrowing by the RA as a fine expression of the artist's Republican beliefs.

Les Parisiens de Daumier runs until 4 March at Galerie du Crédit Municipal de Paris - 55, rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75004 Paris. Open Monday to Saturday from 9h to 17h, closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Some major political events in France in Daumier’s lifetime: 

1814 Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy (King Charles X) in place of Napoléon Bonaparte
1830 After a revolution, King Louis-Phillipe installed in place of Charles X
1848 Second Republic declared after the abdication of Louis-Phillipe
1852 Louis-Napoléon (Napoléon III) installed as Emperor after a coup d’état
1870 Third Republic declared after Napoléon’s defeat by the Prussians at Sedan
1871 Siege of Paris and suppression of the Commune

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