French visual artist Daumier exhibition

This video is called HONORE DAUMIER – MAN OF HIS TIME.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Exhibition: Daumier 1808-1879: Visions Of Paris

Saturday 2nd November 2013

The French artist Honoré Daumier may have been the artisan outsider in the elite art world of the mid-19th century. But, as a new exhibition of his work shows, he was not only a brilliant painter of social and political themes but a figure whose work influenced future radical practice, says CHRISTINE LINDEY

Daumier 1808-1879: Visions Of Paris

Royal Academy London WC1

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) consistently supported the left’s anti-clericalist, anti-monarchist and anti-imperialist struggles for democracy and social justice.

Wounded in the 1830 revolution, imprisoned by the July Monarchy, he hailed the Second Republic of 1848-52, refused the Legion of Honour and served as fine art delegate to the 1871 Paris Commune.

Son of a glassmaker who wrote plays, at the age of 12 Daumier was sent to work as an office boy. Five years later, he was apprenticed to a lithographer and while learning this technical trade got himself a scanty, intermittent art training.

This enabled him to earn his living producing numerous satirical prints, sometimes on a daily basis from 1830 onwards for progressive newspapers, notably Le Charivari. They were also displayed in print gallery windows where they could be seen for free.

Daumier never got the lengthy academic art education deemed essential to the professional artist but his artisan roots served him well. Literate, radical and sometimes revolutionary, early 19th-century artisans were politicised by industrialisation’s threat to their proud skills and livelihoods.

Daumier had working-class consciousness. The rebellious, mocking resistance to sociopolitical injustice perpetuated by the ruling class which permeates his work was born of life experience.

He and his seamstress spouse lived among their fellow working-class Parisians in crowded, verminous rooming houses where moonlighting from the rent collector was common. He had moved at least 10 times during his own childhood.

His early prints exposed the hypocrisy, greed and corruption of King Louis-Philippe‘s governance in the interests of the newly powerful business class. His Gargantua of 1830 lampooned a gigantic, bloated Louis Philippe swallowing baskets of gold coins from the taxes of the poor while excreting favours to the business fraternity.

Destroyed by the police, it led to Daumier’s six months’ imprisonment for “incitement to hatred and contempt of the King’s government.” He soon returned to censuring the state. One of his most moving prints, Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834, depicts one of the many families the army massacred in their lodgings to crush a working-class uprising. Still in his nightshirt, the murdered father helplessly crushes his dead child.

After the 1835 censorship laws prohibited political subjects, Daumier turned to more oblique criticism of the ruling class. Mocking the bourgeoisie’s mean-spiritedness, superior airs, fads and pretensions, while continuing to expose social injustice, these prints can still make us laugh or weep. Devoid of fussy detail, their messages are clear and accessible.

The only class he rarely satirised was his own. Full of warmth and empathy, his non-patronising depictions of working-class life dominate his paintings and drawings which he created mostly in private and rarely exhibited.

They bring to life observations of the everyday – an artist at work, a print collector rifling through a portfolio, passengers rushing for a train, two sad men in bar.

A laundress patiently helps her toddler as they wearily climb the steps from the cold river where she has had no option but to care for the child as she worked. Passengers young and old stoically endure the hard wooden seats of a third-class railway carriage, each person being portrayed as an individual with a complex inner life.

In numerous depictions of Parisian street entertainments Daumier conveyed the precarious, insecure living which the side-show fat ladies, acrobats, strong men, clowns and musicians shared with their working-class audiences.

Daumier communicated ideas and emotions with fluid draughtsmanship based on acute observation of physiognomy, facial expression, dress and bodily stance. Fast, lively and sometimes wild brush strokes animate his paintings in a manner startlingly ahead of their time.

Basing his compositions on strong tonal contrasts he used a brown mid-tone primer from which to ascend to bright lights and descend to deep darkness, so creating visual drama from the quotidian.

Despite the admiration of the contemporary vanguard including then poet Charles Baudelaire and fellow artist Gustave Courbet, Daumier remained the artisan outsider in an art world dominated by middle-class artists, patrons, dealers and critics.

Yet one of his rare verbal statements, “one must be of one’s time” became the rallying cry for the next generation’s avant-garde.

His paintings and drawings are still relatively little known outside specialist circles and the Royal Academy’s exhibition adroitly redresses this.

By interspersing the more accessible paintings with the overtly political prints it also gently introduces Daumier’s overall output to a wider public. Clear, informative but not over-intrusive captions explain topical issues.

Yet the socialist basis of his outlook is underplayed.

The combination of brilliant draughtsmanship, warmth of heart and clear political analysis based on ideological commitment led him to produce what remain some of the finest prints, drawings and paintings of his times.

This exhibition will hearten and inspire all lovers of humanity and social justice.

Runs until January 26 2014. Box office: (020) 7300-8000.

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