If you call yourself a true lover of the fine arts, you are no doubt familiar with one of the greatest illustrators of all time–Gustave Doré, a name that deserves all the deference in the world. But a century ago, Doré received lashes of unscrupulous criticism because his depictions of the low socio-economic estates, and those afflicted by poverty were not gracious, nor were they in any shape a collection of masterpieces influenced by the deliverance of monetary recompense, as never was the case with Doré’s inspiration to draw, paint, or sculpt. We shall examine closely, in awe of course, the epitome of Doré’s artistic finish line, both in execution and imagination, and explore one of the best artists to have graced humankind!
Doré has crowned us with twelve years of plentiful devotion to his art, all the while asking nothing in return but sovereign appreciation to his credit. Doré is considered one of the most celebrated and prolific illustrators of the 19th century and especially of the Romantic Period, one of the best of the many ensuing literary movements, which breathed the candid spirit of ingenuity’s pursuit, emulating what is so dear to all of us.
Of all the biographical texts on Doré, Blanche Roosevelt’s The Life and Reminiscences of Gustave Doré offers the best account of his life. Mrs. Roosevelt shook Mr. Doré’s hand. Additionally, Mrs. Roosevelt interviewed Doré’s friends, acquaintances, family, business partners (engravers), classmates, amongst a more extensive list of others, who also managed to get a hold of letters written to and by Doré throughout the course of his life. It is mainly from that eulogizing tribute to his genius, incessant, and indefatigable production, and likewise admirable qualities–firstly humane, secondly artistic, and thirdly implorable to his homeland France–that I present the information on these pages.
Gustave Doré was born on January 6, 1832, in Strasbourg, France. His mother, Madame Doré, was always supportive and urged him to become a pupil of the fine arts. His father; however, was not well acquainted with the mere idea of his son making a professional career of drawing, given that artists in general, even nowadays, greet poverty in the face rather than financial success.
Since early life, Doré was a renowned genius, the head of his class, the sought-out illustrator by well-known presses, litterateurs, the famous, and lastly, the elect from abroad, with whom he was deliberately associated with after having checked them out for prestige, interest, and overall compatibility. He was a man stern in his beliefs.
Doré was an illustrator, a painter, an aquarellist, a sculptor, a violinist, a singer, a trained acrobat, an engraver, and a prodigy who prevailed the arduous goings of daily life more upon his scaffolding than on the ground among us, harvesting civilians and pioneers. Had he known then how swiftly our pumping hearts pause at the sight of one of his wonders today, over ten decades after their conception, he would have settled down upon the scaffolding, drawn tent flaps over the rigid lustrous structure of metal, and never once more set foot outside.
Doré’s primary technique for invention and composition are inequivalent, solely and with pride, exclusively from his photographic memory. He never studied from models, as often is common practice with painters of his level of talent, which shows how unique his perpetual ken was embedded in us through what he left behind, a pilgrimage.
Doré painted the “Bible,” the “Inferno,” and the “Don Quixote” series collections published by Messrs. Cassell and Co. in the 1860s; the “London,” “L’Espagne,” and “Orlando Furioso” drawings collection were subsequently published by Hachette and Co. in the 1870s. Doré was largely praised abroad against his homely thirst of making fame primarily out of France. Ultimately though, neither for the celebrities of the time who came to him with offers of work, nor for foreign press houses that wished to put him to the test was he prompted to take anyone into contract unless; however, they had found merit in his eyes with his careful observation of likes and resemblance studies. Only those Doré found nobility did he accept to be associated to such personnel.
To dig into his religious devotion, it suffices to say that he was a Christian who allegedly prayed at the very least once a day, and who thanked God every single time he found himself in closed-off communication with his deity inside or outside his studio. But no man will ever be born just like Doré, and to this date one may say that the pain of his self-slavery in freedom was what gave freedom to the slavery of our lives. The amount of work that he undertook on a daily basis was greatly attributed to his desire not only to create but to improve as an artist. He always said that the painting or drawing he liked best was the one he hadn’t yet painted.
Not only did Doré empty his pockets for the less fortunate, he also visited children at hospitals no matter how much work he had piled up upon his burdened back. He was well aware that he was very fortunate to have been born into a family that was financially stable; and so, he was always willing to give to the poor as a sample of his kindheartedness and nobility. Examples of his selflessness go back as far as his boyhood when he was constantly attracted to all the poverty around him; proof of this is well archived in his early drawings. On any given day, he stopped working on a canvas to be beside a friend in sickness and turmoil.
Doré died on January 23, 1883, at the age of fifty-one. Yet, one may say he well lives today among Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. And so we are accorded his faithful cheerers on the shady bleachers at his sideline’s museum of dreams, wherein we sniff the balmy laurels off the shrubs with which we are delighted, in this precious garden of ever-green; in my last words, humility’s content.