Great artists have always been attracting imitators and copycats; Daumier is no exception. He has created so many original caricatures and drawings that we will always be confronted with the question of authenticity. Many gifted artists have tried and are still trying today to copy Daumier’s characteristics.
The definition of an imitation can be discussed at length. We chose a rather straight forward definition: A print which has not been produced by the authorised publisher and printer (such as Aubert, Martinet etc.) during Daumier’s life time and is being presented as an original (not meeting the above criteria) should be considered an imitation.
Reprints, which are not presented as originals, should be considered “reprints after Daumier”. This applies e.g. for the many different editions of “Robert Macaire”, since Daumier did not do the drawing for these books.
A Charivari print will never be a reprint nor a fake. The newspaper itself is the best proof for the authenticity. Once you consider to purchase prints “sur blanc” (on white wove paper), we strongly advise inexperienced collectors to contact an expert or to take advantage from our inexpensive expertise service offered on this website.
Pantheon books, Hyperion, Aegis etc. did beautiful reproductions of lithographs on single sheets printed on wove paper (so-called folios). They can be considered reproductions and only become fakes, once they are offered as “originals”. Their commercial value is negligible, while their beauty is just as impressive as the original they are copied from.
As you will note from some of the photographs in this section, many of the reprints offered on the market cover “lawyer” themes. Unfortunately, these prints are very often offered as original Daumier prints although they are reprints from the 1990s. They are manufactured as heliogravures, photos or by other reproduction methods (see glossary section) and are sometimes offered in Paris in the bookstalls along the Seine river for very little money. Éditions Hautecoeur in Paris still produces these reprints today.
Many of these imitations are hand signed, some of them even numbered in pencil (e.g. as one of 500). You should be aware that Daumier never numbered his prints and surely did not sign them in pencil. His signature or monogram was placed (if at all) directly on the stone, never separately on each print.
Other numbers or handwritten notes that can be found on prints are reference numbers to work-catalogues, which have been added on the prints by previous owners for identification. One number is most likely a reference to the Hazard-Delteil work-catalogue number (commonly known as H.D.) dating back to the first complete catalogue of 1904. Another one would be the Loys Delteil work-catalogue number (commonly known as L.D.) from the 1925 catalogue raisonné. The DAUMIER REGISTER© has consolidated all these numbers for easier understanding.
When building a collection it is a basic requirement to have access to a work- catalogue. Usually your local museum or library will have one for you to consult before you buy. You can also purchase the original Loys Delteil (L.D.), showing some 4’000 prints, at around $3’000, or alternatively a reprint at around $1’500.
BUT: now you have the possibility to consult the DAUMIER REGISTER© on the internet free of charge. This completely revised work-catalogue gives you access to photos of all 4’000 lithographs (even to those omitted by the previous registers), over 1’000 wood engravings, 550 oil paintings, 100 sculptures and 1’900 drawings. You also get full information on all the paintings and sculptures, as well as historical background information on the prints. Click HERE for a direct access to the DAUMIER REGISTER©.
A note on the side:
In “Visiting Picasso” The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose, Elizabeth Cowling writes:
14 March ’70[…] Talking about fakes, Picasso said, ‘I once made a fake Daumier and while I was away in Holland my friends sold it and gave me 60 frs. from the proceeds – I have no idea where it is now. The signature was very good. I can still see how you made his initials H.D.’