HUNTINGTON — The Huntington Museum of Art presents a new exhibit titled “Through the Eyes of Honore Daumier: Lithographs from the Permanent Collection” through July 31.
Honore Daumier (1808-79) was a French artist renowned as a brilliant caricaturist with boundless imagination. For most of the artist’s life, he earned a living producing sharp-witted cartoons and provocative caricatures that satirized his countrymen.
“This exhibit will present selections from the Huntington Museum of Art’s impressive collection of lithographs by this influential artist, most of them gifts of the Armand Hammer Foundation,” said HMA Senior Curator/Exhibition Designer John Farley. “Although these works reflect the culture of a particular country and era through the eyes of one keen citizen, Daumier’s astute observations about humanity echo into the present.”
Published in newspapers, periodicals, journals and illustrated pamphlets, these striking images, often pointed and uncompromising, offer commentary on 19th century France — a time of social, cultural and political upheaval. From the July Revolution of 1830 and the ascendance of the upper middle class, or bourgeoisie, to the fall of the Second Napoleonic Empire in 1870, Daumier’s images engaged the French populace through the weekly press.
“We are opening an exhibit of comic drawings from the permanent collection later this summer. It goes on view just one day before this exhibit closes. You could think of this Daumier exhibit as an ‘opening act’ if you will or historical primer for the contemporary comic art with which everyone is familiar,” Farley said. “The tradition of printed illustration that comments on political and social issues is, in some respects, a direct antecedent of our modern comic culture. I hope that viewers will be able to see some of the through lines as they enjoy these lithographs by Daumier.”
Daumier was politically aligned with the working class, in antagonistic opposition to the French constitutional monarchy and those who profited from it. His convictions occasionally lead to retribution and censorship.
Early in Daumier’s career he was charged, fined and briefly imprisoned for a scathing caricature that depicted an indolent French King Louis Phillippe gobbling bags of coins extracted from the nation’s workers — many of whom lived in miserable poverty. Daumier mastered the then recently invented lithographic printmaking process, a faster and less expensive method of mass-producing prints compared to the traditional practices of engraving and etching. He was prolific and drew 3,958 lithographs before the onset of blindness halted his work. Despite his reputation for acerbic political statements, many of these prints were lighthearted satires of contemporary life in industrialized French society.
This exhibit is presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment. This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.
For more information on exhibits and events at the Huntington Museum of Art, visit hmoa.org or call 304-529-2701. HMA is fully accessible.