“Dear Monsier Daumier….. I am sorry, but you are fired.”
It happens to the best, as we all know. To Daumier, it happened in February1860. His boss, Charles Philipon, who may have been better as an administrator of the Charivari than as an artist (as he had secretly aspired), published his justification for the dismissal more than a year later, on September 21, 1861 in the “Journal Amusant” on page 7 and 8. The reason given was: “lack of imagination”. To put an extra topping on the belated explanation the article was entitled sarcastically: “Abdication de Daumier I “.
Little did Philipon know how much his decision would transmogrify Daumier’s life at its roots! Daumier’s fascination with painting and drawing was over many years asphyxiated due to constant pressure to deliver a plethora of caricatures to the Charivari and it eventually became a central motivation in his evolution as a painter and draughtsman. Still, at the same period, while being on the cusp of becoming the famous painter now so cherished by us, some of his finest lithographs appeared in “Le Boulevard”, and some of his highly important political prints appeared in the “Album du Siège” around 1870/71. Lack of imagination?
See here an excerpt from a book by Naomi Ritter “Art as Spectacle”, Images of the entertainer since romanticism, where she comments Philipon’s attitude towards Daumier in connection with his article in the “Journal Amusant”.
When looking at the dates of origin of Daumier’s most artistic and expressive paintings, it becomes evident that the period after 1860 proved to be highly important for his artistic development as a painter.
Thus an initially negative professional experience opened up the path to a prolific painted oeuvre, which had remained restrained for decades.
Merci Monsieur Philipon…. you could hardly have done better.
On a different note: the Daumier Register, in an attempt to make the viewing of Daumier’s caricatures even more enjoyable and easily accessible in a 21st century manner, has produced several short videos, which can be seen on Youtube (Click here)