July 6, 2004
An important book on Daumier has just appeared on the market. Surely not the coffee-table quality one so often finds in bookstores, but a publication which really should have been made available in 1989 when the author Elizabeth C. Childs researched its content to write her doctoral thesis at Columbia University. While her thesis was difficult to get by, the present book finally will be available to the ever growing flock of Daumier-amateurs.
The title of the book is: “Daumier and Exoticism” (Satirizing the French and the Foreign) by Elizabeth C. Childs, Peter Lang edition, New York (Hermeneutics of art; vol. 11) ISBN 0-8204-6945-9.
The book examines a central aspect in Daumier’s lithographic oeuvre which up to now was rarely touched by research: Daumier’s use of stereotypes examining racism and “foreigners”, not omitting the stout Germans nor the “exotic” British, the exuberant Haitian Emperor Soulouque or the Chinese and the Indians, last, but not least the Americans. She makes the reader aware of the kaleidoscope of Asian, north African and Middle Eastern impressions with which Daumier creates a mirror image of Parisian bourgeoisie – adroitly camouflaged behind exotic appearances.
Beyond the author’s professional background and extensive knowledge of art history, the reader is offered a chance to learn about the complexity of the French Governmental system and appreciate European “Machtpolitik” of the period between 1835 and 1865. As a side product we obtain detailed insight into women’s lib and repressed sexuality in a world dominated by bourgeois thinking.
This new publication on a highly fascinating sector of Daumier’s oeuvre – dealing also with his contemporaries – will represent a valuable addition to any Daumier library, whether private or institutional.