Monday Mourning - Gustave Doré


On this day in 1883, the French master illustrator and sculptor Gustave Doré passed away. Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré was born on January 6th 1832 in Strasbourg to. It became clear really early on that young Gustave was a prodigy artist and an ingenious prankster. At age fifteen he got hired by the French publication "Le Journal Pour Rire" ( i.e, The Journal for laughter/ laughing) as a caricaturist and soon after began to get commissions to illustrate literary scenes by Rabelais, Milton and Dante among others. Portrait by famous Parisian photographer Félix Nadar, circa 1855.

Some of his most celebrated work include illustrations for the works of Lord Byron, an edition of Cervante's Don Quixote, a popular English edition of the Bible and a magnificent oversized folio edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. Among his contemporaries he was also well known for his paintings and his immense prolific talent- it is rumored that he able to complete six drawings in day. According to a Salt Lake Daily Herald issue of January 1882, " a statistician has calculated that if Doré's pictures were laid flat, side by side, they would cover the railroad tracks from Paris to Lyon" (425km or 624 miles). His commercial success wasn't restricted to just France or even Europe, but he was highly regarded in America as well, as evidenced by numerous news articles and exposés mostly owing to the widespread admiration and sales of his illustrated Bible. In 1869 he was was awarded with the medal of the Legion of Honor.

Despite the popularity Gustave Doré enjoyed in his lifetime, his only companion and life

long roommate was his mother, following the death of his father in 1849. He never married. According to the Times- Democrat of June 5th, 1882, Dore and his mother resided in "one of the old hotels on Fanbourg st till he purchased a villa at the suburbs of Paris. His mother purportedly suffered from "neuralgia" . It is said that after she passed, Doré lost his will to live and died shortly after though his obituary says that he was a victim of a severe cold that led to "throat inflammation" – perhaps made worse due to his habit to "smoke like a Spaniard". Clipping above from the Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) · Thu, Feb 1, 1883

Clipping of his obituary (right) from The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Sun, Jan 28, 1883 - links to a pdf doc suitable for reading.

News of his death shook the world and were reported far and wide and several publications around the western world circulated his obituary (right). According to it his moods oscillated between amiable and energetic and depressed and hopeless. The Staunton Spectator reports that his death was one in a string of sudden deaths of beloved artists in the previous weeks (sound familiar?). He left behind scores of lithographs, drawings, paintings and sculptures including an unfinished set of engravings illustrating the works of William Shakespeare, interrupted by his death. Despite his wide renown, he was criticized for choosing morbid and dark subjects for his later work (including his sculptures) and foregoing the use of color.

His body was interred in the Pere La Chaise cemetery in Paris and famed author Alexandre Dumas (Three Musketeers et al) delivered his eulogy.

Gustave Doré's grave

Gustave Doré's gravesite in Pere La Chaise cemetery, photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, 2013 / via Wikimedia Commons

A passionate artist who lived and breathed his work, Doré was imbued his images with such devotion and heart, it comes as no surprise that his image of death, sorrow and loss continue to move us today. Below you will find some of my favorites of his lyrical work. All images belong to the public domain.

The Fallen Angel, engraving from Paradise Lost by John Milton, 1866

Engraving illustrating Canto 31, Il Paradiso, from Dante's Divine Comedy

Engraving illustrating Canto 10, Il Inferno, from Dante's Divine Comedy

Death on a Pale horse, 1880, engraving illustrating The Bible

The Vision of The Valley of Dry Bones, 1866, engraving

Engraving illustrating The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Nevermore, engraving illustrating The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Sorrow for Lost Lenore, Engraving illustrating Edgar Allan Poe's works

Sorrow for Lost Lenore, Engraving illustrating Edgar Allan Poe's works

Engraving illustrating The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

Engraving illustrating Canto 10, Il Inferno, from Dante's Divine Comedy

Cherub with gun on a pile of skulls, drawing

Engraving illustrating The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe,

#death #history #arthistory #GustaveDoré #artist #engravings #illustration #sorrow #literature #obituary #deathanniversary #mondaymoruning

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