Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) was a prominent French artist of the nineteenth century. The Lilly Jacobson Collection at the University of North Dakota contains over 1,400 original prints by Daumier that were gifted to UND in 2016. The prints by Daumier in this collection extend from 1832 to the early 1870s.
Daumier was a political progressive of his day, whose satirical art often addressed political and social issues. As an anti-monarchist, he espoused republican principles and was a strong advocate for freedom of the press. By today’s standards, however, Daumier would not be considered progressive on some issues. In regard to women’s rights, for example, he held conventional views that were characteristic of his time.
Especially active as a lithographer, Daumier produced over five thousand original prints during his prolific career. He also executed about 550 paintings for which recognition did not occur until 1878 when a retrospective exhibition was finally held in Paris. In addition, Daumier made over a thousand drawings and about a hundred sculptures.
Born in Marseille, France, Daumier moved north to Paris with his family in 1816. His involvement with lithography began in the 1822, just a quarter century after the artistic process was invented. After the Revolution of 1830 and the rise of Louis-Philippe as King of the French, Daumier began working for the journal, La Caricature, for which one of the artist’s caricatures of Louis Philippe led to a six-month prison sentence.
In 1833, satirical lithographs by Daumier began to appear in the illustrated newspaper Le Charivari. However, after the passing of new censorship laws in September 1835, the caricatures for Le Charivari tended to be less political and more aimed at tamer social issues, such as commentaries on lifestyles of the bourgeoisie. More politically charged caricatures resurfaced in Daumier’s art during the Second French Republic (1848-1852) and the Second French Empire (1852-1870).