Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gustave Doré

Born in Strasbourg, France in 1832, Paul Gustav Doré began making drawings at the early age of 5. By the age of 12, he began carving lithographic stones. He would primarily go on to work with wood and steel engravings of this nature, but he was a tremendously talented illustrator as well.

Doré's artistic career began at the age of 15, when he passed by a publishing company with a set of engravings in the window. The next morning, he approached the publisher and presented him with revisions of the drawings, telling the publisher, "This is how that set of illustrations should be done." Thoroughly impressed by the young boy's talent, the publisher, Charles Philipon, asked Doré to make some more sketches. He did so within seconds. A contract was signed on the spot and Doré moved in with Monsieur Philipon. By the age of 16, Gustave Doré was the highest paid illustrator in France.

Doré is best known for his Bible illustrations, which totaled 238 in number. They were extremely popular, with nearly 1,000 editions published. It is said that in the forty year period from 1860 to 1900, a new Doré illustrated edition was published every eight days! His illustrated Bible was published in 1865.

Jacob Wrestling With the Angel

Jesus Collapses Under the Cross

Doré also went on to illustrate several books and fairy tales - Milton's Paradise Lost, Dante's The Divine Comedy and Tennyson's The Idylls of the King, to name a few.

Cendrillon, or Cinderella

Idylls of the King

In 1867, a major exhibition of Doré's work was held in London. This exhibition eventually led to the opening of the Doré Gallery in New Bond Street, which remained open for 25 years and went on to tour the United States. Doré also began work on a five-year project, a comprehensive portrait of London that was eventually published in 1872.
In 1882, he took on his only American commission, for Poe's The Raven. Upon completing this project in 1883, he passed away at the age of 51.

I chose Gustave Doré because I was drawn to the composition of his drawings. His illustrations are always impeccably composed. His subjects are not always placed in the center of his drawings, but they draw viewers' eyes to them with great success. As a hobby photographer, I appreciated his sense of composition. I also like his use of contrast; each drawing contains a wide range of values,with some areas completely darkened and others left completely unshaded, lending his pictures an almost mythical quality.

- Melissa Yeo

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