On January 23, 1883 a heart attack ended the life of Gustave Doré, perhaps the most famous illustrator of all time. His death was as sudden as his life as an illustrator had been prodigious. Because Doré’s work is intimately linked to universal authors such as Milton, Dante, Shakespeare or Cervantes. His inexhaustible creativity made him one of the most brilliant and prolific draftsmen of the 19th century, perhaps one of the last romantic artists in history. But Doré did not limit himself to making prints, but also demonstrated his gifts as an artist in other fields, such as oil painting, watercolor and even sculpture. Gustave Doré’s footprint has lasted to this day. It has even made it to the big screen. For example, director and actor Terry Gilliam (once a member of the great Monty Python) has not hesitated to confess his great admiration for the French artist, in whose work he has been inspired to create the ornate and baroque worlds of his films.
From cartoonist to illustrator
Born in Strasbourg on January 6, 1832, Gustave Doré maintained a close bond with his mother throughout his life, who supported him from the beginning. His mother came to consider that her son had the talent of a genius. But his father, on the contrary, did not share his wife’s enthusiasm for his son’s artistic abilities and wanted to enroll Gustave in the polytechnic school. But young Gustave would soon agree with his mother. at fifteen began a successful career as a cartoonist, under the baton of Parisian publisher Jacques Phillipon, and little by little he became a professional illustrator. Gustave soon began to earn an excellent reputation thanks to his work as an illustrator of the literary works of authors such as Dante or Balzac, and even accepted the challenge of illustrating The Holy Bible Y Dante’s hell in 1860. Both works were so successful that they allowed him to open the Doré Gallery in London and earn an enormous fortune.
The young man began a successful career as a cartoonist to gradually become a professional illustrator. He began to earn an excellent reputation thanks to his work as an illustrator of great literary works.
In 1854, Doré made his first illustrated book consisting of 103 drawings. It was commissioned by the journalist Paul Lacroix, which he titled Rabelais. That would be the starting point that made Doré a tireless illustrator and the creator of engravings for works such as the drolatic tales (1854) by Balzac, The Divine Comedy (Hell, 1861, Purgatory Y Paradise, 1868) by Dante, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1862), de Rudolph Eric Raspe, The Holy Bible (1865) the paradise lost of Milton (1867), among others. In a short time his work was already published in editions in almost all European languages, and even in Hebrew. To make his illustrations, the French cartoonist, Unlike other artists, he thoroughly studied the scenes, documented the clothing of the time, and even analyzed the pose of each character.
In 1869, Doré began a collaboration with the British journalist Blanchard Jerrold, who had in mind a project to carry out an illustrated account of mid-Victorian London. The intention was to show a faithful portrait of the misery and deprivation that the population of the capital suffered daily. As Jerrold later claimed, to carry out this work on numerous occasions both men had to be escorted by plainclothes policemen, since They spent many days, and also many nights, visiting seedy dens, opium dens, and going down poorly lit streets where an unpleasant situation could await at every corner. Both Doré and Jerrold were deeply impressed by the misery they saw with their own eyes, but also hopeful that some situations could be resolved with a little goodwill on the part of the authorities.
In 1869, Doré collaborated with the British journalist Blanchard Jerrold on his project to produce an illustrated account of mid-Victorian London.
All those illustrations, as well as Jerrold’s chronicle, came to light in 1872 with the title London, a Pilgrimage (London, a pilgrimage). Despite the fact that at that time Doré was already a consecrated cartoonist (he charged ten thousand pounds for a five-year contract), some of his detractors criticized that the work had not been drawn on the street, so it lacked rigor. You have to remember that Doré did not like to draw under the watchful eye of people, so, in effect, he left out some details. Likewise, Jerrold’s text was also not free from criticism and was dismissed by some as superficial. Nonetheless, Doré’s 180 prints were a bestseller for their excellent quality.
Passionate about Spain and Don Quixote
Spain was one of the countries that had the greatest influence on the work of the French artist. A young Doré visited the Iberian Peninsula in 1855 accompanied by the journalist Paul Dalloz and the poet Théophile Gautier, and the result of that journey were two books of illustrations entitled The trip to the Pyrenees Y Bullfights, published in 1860. Gustave Doré lived in Barcelona for several months and traveled throughout the country together with Baron Davillier, publishing a series of chronicles on Valencia and Galicia that were published in the magazine Around the world. But Doré’s love for Spain was not limited to his landscapes alone. Apparently he fell madly in love with a famous Madrid opera singer of Italian origin named Adelina Patti.
Gustave Doré lived for several months in Barcelona and traveled throughout Spain together with Baron Davillier publishing a series of chronicles on Valencia and Galicia that were included in the magazine Le Tour du Monde.
Due to the passion that Doré felt for Spain, the vision that we all have in our minds of the figure of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his faithful squire Sancho Panza which has bequeathed to posterity. In the 1860s, Doré illustrated a French edition of Cervantes’ work made up of 370 drawings, most of them large, in which he magnificently combined fantasy and everyday life in the purest Cervantes style. To date, no one has succeeded in taking away from the French cartoonist the paternity of the iconic image of the illustrious gentleman. In 1862, commissioned by the French publisher Hachette, Doré returned to our country to make a series of drawings that portrayed the most typical Spain of the 19th century, a work titled Spain, which would be published in 1874 and would end up becoming a classic of travel literature.
The eternal Gustave Dore
Doré’s last work was for a deluxe edition of the story The Raven, of the American writer of horror stories Edgar Allan Poe, in 1883. Throughout his life, the French cartoonist produced more than ten thousand engravings that can now be admired in most libraries around the world. Even if He also made inroads into other artistic disciplines, such as painting, in which his gloomy oil paintings stand out in which he refers to the horror of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), or sculpture, such as his magnificent the wine poem, a huge bronze vase on whose surface there are motley Bacchic scenes, made between 1877-1872.
Doré also made inroads into other artistic disciplines, such as painting, in which his dark oil paintings stand out in which he made reference to the horror of the Franco-Prussian war.
There is no doubt that Doré’s work has a large “cinematic” component, which makes him a precursor. Hollywood special effects master Ray Harrihausen went so far as to declare in an interview that “Gustave Doré would have made a great chief operator […], look at things from the camera’s point of view.” This is evident in the animated films of the Californian filmmaker Tim Burton, who drink from the work of Doré to trace the London that the artist captured in his plates almost a century and a half before. Also, it is indisputable that Doré’s biblical iconography or Dante’s images of hell have been perpetuated over time and have been brought to the big screen by various filmmakers over the decades as a heartfelt tribute to a timeless genius.