French Realist graphic artist, painter, and sculptor Honoré Daumier was born on February 26, 1808. He was noted above all for his stinging caricatures. Daumier had a deprived childhood, which fueled the campaigning nature of much of his art. His first job, in a bailiff’s office, also left him with a permanent loathing for lawyers and bureaucrats. After learning lithography, however, he was soon in great demand as a political cartoonist, working principally for Le Charivari and La Caricature.
A scurrilous drawing of Louis-Philippe in the guise of Balzac’s Gargantua made Daumier notorious, but also earned him a spell of imprisonment. Undaunted, he branched out into social satire, illustrating the foibles of contemporary society. During his lifetime, Daumier’s paintings were virtually unknown and never provided him with a viable living.
In their general outlook, as objective depictions of modern Parisian life, they can be linked with Courbet’s Realist movement. Stylistically, however, Daumier was an isolated figure. His paintings were shaped by his graphic work, displaying a bold economy of form, subtle characterization and an overall lack of finish. In later years, his eyesight failed and he was only saved from absolute penury by the generosity of fellow painter, Corot.