Six Daumier wood engravings never registered in a work catalogue!

(Illustrations at the end of the article)

Beaumont Newhall (1908-1993) was an influential curator, art historian, writer and photographer. He worked at the MOMA from 1937 on and eventually became the first director of its photographic department. In 1938 he had the opportunity to see the private collection of Daumier wood engravings owned by Russell Allen, Boston, who later on was to become one of the main contributors to the collection of Daumier prints of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Thanks to Mr. Newhall’s research from 1938, which we found by coincidence at the Frick Library in New York, we are now able to make his findings available to the Daumier community. His discoveries of six unpublished Daumier wood engravings are now included in the Daumier Register under the numbers DR6090, DR6112 to DR6116. Please read here below what Mr. Newhall says about these charming wood engravings he found in the collection of Mr. Allen:

“Mr. W. G. Russell Allen of Boston owns twenty-two such proofs on India paper; on one of them is lightly penciled “Bon a tirer-H.D.” They are india paper, only a few inches square, and are pasted on three mounts-two of which are quite obviously pages from a scrap-book, while the third is more recent. Each of the vignettes mounted on the older pages is numbered-on the first page from 116 to 122, on the second page from 217 to 224.

Sixteen of the proofs appear in Eugene Bouvy’s Daumier, l’oeuvre gravé du maître (Paris, 1933) as numbers 384, 386, 388, 394-6, 398-401, 403, 414, 563, 620bis and 753. [see DR5405, DR5407, DR5409, DR5415-5417, DR5419-5422, DR5424, DR5435, DR5599, DR5657, DR5824]. The remaining six are not included in this great two-volume catalog, which is based not only on the earlier catalogs by Rümann (Munich, 1914), Fuchs (Munich, 1917), and Dimier (Paris 1931), but also on the author’s life-long study of the subject.

Furthermore, while the majority of the sixteen catalogued proofs in Mr. Allen’s collection are marked with notations of the place of their publication in addition to the consecutive numbering, not one of the six un-catalogued proofs has any such definite indication. The only notation referring to them is the sentence (not in Daumier’s hand) beside Fig. 5: “Vendu à M. Philippon” [the editor of Charivari].

It is not improbable, then, that the blocks were never used, and the only impressions taken from them may be the very proofs published with Mr. Allen’s courteous permission for the first time in 1938 by Beaumont Newhall. The presumption can, of course, never be proved; it can only be disproved. What is certain, however, is apparent to all: some of these drawings represent Daumier at his best, and belong with his recorded work. The boy carrying his chum pick-a-back [DR6112] is a lively little sketch, while the tiny picture of a ragpicker [DR6113] is a splendid example of Daumier’s remarkable economy of line.

They are fully characteristic of the majority of the illustrations which he made for the Physiologies series; while they cannot be numbered among his masterpieces, and while they lack that force and strength and biting satire which we have come to associate with Daumier’s greatest work, yet they are full of charm, vivacity and evidence of his keen observation. They bear out Baudelaire’s comment: “Nobody knew as he knew and loved (in the way artists do) the bourgeois, that last vestige of the Middle Ages, that Gothic ruin with so hardy a life, that type at once banal and eccentric. Daumier lived intimately with him, spied upon him day and night, learned the mysteries of his hearth, got on friendly terms with his wife and his children, knew the form of his nose and the way his head was constructed, knew the spirit which made the home live from top to bottom.”

(from “Daumier Vignettes” by Beaumont Newhall.

Parnassus, Vol. 10, No. 5 (Oct., 1938), pp. 12-13+32)