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 Gustave Dore  (1832 - 1883)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: book illustration, engraving, landscapes, battle scenes and history painting

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Paul Gustave Doré is primarily known as Gustave Dore

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Souvenir de Loch Carron, Ecosse
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Paul Gustave Dore (January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) was a French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor.  Doré worked primarily with wood engraving and steel engraving.

Doré was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. His skill had manifested itself even earlier, however. At age five he had been a prodigy troublemaker, playing pranks that were mature beyond his years. Seven years later, he began carving in cement. Subsequently, as a young man, he began work as a literary illustrator in Paris, winning commissions to depict scenes from books by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.

In 1853, Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible.  A decade later, he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters.

Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.

Doré's English Bible (1866) was a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London.  This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Covelant Bond Street.  In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London.  Jerrold had obtained the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808.

Doré signed a five-year contract with the publishers Grant & Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year, and he received the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the project. Doré was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world renowned, but his woodcuts and engravings, like those he did for Jerrold, are where he really excelled as an artist with an individual vision.

The completed book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial and socioeconomical success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics.  Some of these critics were concerned with the fact that Doré appeared to focus on the poverty that existed in parts of London.  Doré was accused by the Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying." The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down." The book was a financial success, however, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers.

His later works included Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tennyson's The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. His work also appeared in the Illustrated London News.

He continued to illustrate books until his death of a short illness in Paris in 1883. The city's Père Lachaise Cemetery contains his grave.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Gustave Dore was born in 1833 in Strasbourg, France.  His name originally was Dorer, a not infrequent German name, which he modified into the French equivalent.  In 1848 at fifteen he began to exhibit at the Salon landscape sketches in pen and ink and the same year began to contribute regularly to Journal Pour Rire, as well as a large number of designs to Journal Pour Tous.  His earliest exhibited works were Battle of the Alma in the Salon of 1855 and the Battle of Inkermann in the Salon of 1857, but his best picture, which first brought him into notice as a painter, was Paolo and Francesco da Remini in 1863.  

Dore's ambition was to win fame as an historical painter but in this he failed.  Gifted with marvelous fertility of imagination and wonderful facility of execution, he nevertheless possessed grave defects. Nowhere are his faults of composition more manifest than in the enormous canvases exhibited in the Dore Gallery in London. (Large: 20' x 30'.) His most ambitious works were Ecce Homo 1877, and Moses Before Pharoah 1878-80.   

It is as a designer of illustrations for books that the wonderful versatility of his genius becomes most apparent.  The designs of the Contes Drolatiques of Balzac are masterpieces of caricature, in the true medieval spirit.  Preceded by illustrations to the Rabalais 1854 and Legend of the Wandering Jew 1856; Designs for Dante's Inferno, terrible in their weird imagination, 1861; Designs for Don Quixote, careful studies of Spanish life, 1863; Purgatoria' and 'Paradiso of Dante 1868; Designs for the Bible 1856-66; Milton's Paradise Lost 1866; Tennyson's Idyls of the King 1867-68; Coleridge's Ancient Mariner 1876; Orlando Furioso of Ariosto 1879; and Poe's Raven 1883, his last work, marked the grades in a constantly descending scale of genius and power.  He also possessed  considerable ability as a sculptor, and was engaged in a monument to the elder Dumas when he died in Paris in 1883. 

He left unfinished a series of illustrations to Shakespeare.   

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California

The Oxford Companion to Art, Edited by Harold Osborne.

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