Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)

Youth Years

DaumierDaumier was born in Marseilles and the 13 year old boy began working as an assistant bailiff in Paris, where his family had moved in 1821. His father was a framer who also tried to make name by writing classical tragedies, an activity because of which his wife, son and two daughters nearly starved.

In 1822 Daumier began painting lessons with the painter and archaeologist Lenoir. This was during the revolution as many sculptures from churches and palaces contraceptives destruction. As a 14-year-old made ​​his first Daumier lithographs (a printable drawing on prepared stone). The lithography, who had recently invented by Senefelder would Daumier’s specialty.

Political Caricature 1830-1835

Political caricature of the magazines La Caricature and Charivari relies on close cooperation


between Philipon as publisher and Daumier first employee, both ardent Republicans. Daumier was convicted in 1832 on charges including “inciting hatred and contempt of the royal government.” This on occasion of the production of the print Gargantua. Especially the corruption of the regime and around the vicinity of King Louis-Philippe was denounced therein. The six months’ imprisonment in Sainte-Pelagie, Souvenir de Ste Pelagiewas not lost time. He made a self-portrait and was approached by many for making portraits. The use of the litho-stone was forbidden him myself, but there were others for printing his designs.  


In this lithograph from 1831, the peer already appears in the middle between the masks, symbolizing the king. Meanwhile the symbol of peer nearly adopted by all cartoonists and Philipon should justify itself in 1834 before the Court of Appeal as the inventor of this symbol.

The Right Middle

In 1831 Louis-Philippe had announced in a speech that “he was looking for the right balance between the excesses of a popular exercise of power and the abuse of royal power. ” Philipon – reacting to this speech – had promised to readers of Charivari to publish a gallery of portraits of all the “celebrities of the right middle.”


The realization took some tome because Daumier had chosen first chosen modelling “portrait-charges” in the form of sculptured figurines of the celebrities, which he would use as three-
dimensional models for 
Persil    Persil lithothe lithographs. The idea of ​​doing this was Daumier’s, although he later declared never to have started the project “as Philipon had not stood behind me.” The 36 figurines are now located at the Musee d’Orsay, counting 25 caricatures of celebriteiten and 11 of friends (including Philipon) and 

well-known Republicans. Around 1830, it was not unusual to make such a caricature/ figurines also from friends.  


The Monthly Lithografic Association

Already in 1832 Philipon was a company set up shares for the loyal readers of La Caricature and Charivari to form a fund to pay the fines which publishers and cartoonists were convicted. The judicial intervention had led to twenty arrests and six convictions and fines up to 6,000 francs. Participants received each month as a premium on first-rate paper printed lithography.


The first of the 24 panels of the series was designed by Grandville and the rest by Daumier. These include “Le Ventre Legislative” and “La Rue Transnonain” from 1834. The last picture is a masterpiece of Daumier and lithography in general. In 1834 the silk weavers in Lyon had revolted and were also erected barricades in Paris during the bloody repression.

Rue Transnonain

On April 15, soldiers forced the house No. 12 Rue Transnonain inside after the firing from a window. Ten civilians including a woman and child were massacred. The impact of this print, spread by the press and newspaper, on contemporaries was enormous because of its realistic portrayal of the excessive violence of the military. The picture presents the facts correctly, while the portrayal is fictional. He managed the government not to seize the stone on which the lithograph was signed but of seized as many copies in circulation. After the April 1834 uprising were arrested 1500 people in Lyon and Paris, of which small part was convicted.

The end of the political caricature

Shortly after the last (of many) failed attempts on the life of the king by Fieschi in July 28, 1835

the September Laws were introduced whereby political caricature was banned altogether and censorship was introduced for the rest of caricature and satire of morals. Because of this the political caricature disappeared from the work of Daumier to 1848 (the start of the Second Republic).

Caricature of Morals 1835- 1848

To compensate for the loss of income Daumier at first concentrated on book illustrations, including:

  • Cholera
  • Le Némesis Medicale Illustrée, with satirical texts by doctors and some medical practices (magnetism, phrenology)
  • Physiology of the poet
  • Physiology of Blue Stockings
  • Great City, not Paul de Kock
  • La Comedie Humaine by Balzac      

Robert Macaire – 1838

The character of Robert Macaire was a creation of the actor Frederic Lemaitre in 1834, Philipon had the idea to develop this successful comedy with Daumier as lithographic sequel series. Macaire and his comrade Bertrand stand for self-seeking, unscrupolous entrepeneurs, reflecting a business-moral of cheating in all branches of life which was taking governance over France in that time. The Macaire series exploits also the idea originating from de Balzac of a “re-appearing personage”. Macaire can in different contexts act as an impostor, a charlatan or also as a corrupt politician, but also different personages can act a “Macaire” – character.

Stories from Antiquity – 1841

The poet and art-critic Baudelaire saw also a parallel between de Macaire-series and the series “Histoires Anciennes” (“ Stories from Antiquity”) from 1841,  in which the flavour for ancient mythology is satirized, being according to Baudelaire a parafrase of the saying “Who will deliver us from the Greek and Romans?”



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