Overview

Best known for political cartoons and humorous caricatures satirizing contemporary life, Daumier's paintings reveal a more serious examination of the human condition. The itinerant street musicians and acrobats in Wandering Saltimbanques are depicted without ridicule, the artist sympathetically revealing the poverty and isolation of their offstage lives.

Daumier may have felt a personal affinity with the entertainers. The little boy carrying a chair could be a recollection of Daumier's childhood, when his family, destitute and living in Paris, endured numerous displacements to progressively worse lodgings. Further, it has been suggested that the older clown clad in traditional costume and leading his family in this painting may be associated with the artist's father, a failed poet and playwright committed to the insane asylum at Charenton in 1851, where he died.

Daumier was self-taught as a painter, and his style has many characteristics of the graphic media in which he trained. The blunt silhouettes of the figures and the simplified space they occupy are stylistic elements that originated in his lithographs. The unspecific, indefinite appearance thus produced endows them with more universal meaning. Personal associations aside, the saltimbanques here are artists struggling to make their way in a world that, as Daumier depicts it, is a bleak, anonymous place.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Alexis Rouart [1855-1911], Paris, by 1901;[1] probably by inheritance to his father, Henri Rouart [1833-1912], Paris; (Galerie Étienne Bignou, Paris and New York); sold July 1933 to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1878
Exposition des peintures et dessins de H. Daumier, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1878, no. 79, as Paillasse.
1901
Exposition Daumier, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1901, no. 66
1927
Aquarelles et Dessins de Daumier, Galerie L. Dru, Paris, 1927, no. 26 (Possibly)
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
1980
Picasso: The Saltimbanques, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, no. 6, fig. 5.
1982
Manet and Modern Paris, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1982-1983, no. 70, repro.

Bibliography

1908
Klossowski, Erich. Honoré Daumier. Munich, 1908: 15, no. 205, pl. 52.
1923
Klossowski, Erich. Honoré Daumier. Munich, 1923: 104, no. 205, repro. 87.
1927
Fuchs, Eduard. Der Maler Daumier. New York, 1927: 50, no. 123a (Munich, 1930: 50, no. 123a).
1965
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 42, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 37.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 30, repro.
1968
Maison, K.E. Honoré Daumier, catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1968: I:65, no. 25, pl. 120.
1970
Starobinski. Portrait de l'artiste en saltimbanque. Geneva, 1970: 80, repro.
1971
Mandel, Gabriele. L'opera pittorica completa di Daumier. Milan, 1971: no. 31, pl. X.
1973
Clark, Timothy. The Absolute Bourgeois. London, 1973: 119.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 92, repro.
1981
Harper, Paula Hays. Daumier's Clowns: Les Saltimbanques et Les Parades. New York, 1981: 101-107, pl. 30.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 437, no. 626, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 114, repro.
1987
Eitner, Lorenz. An Outline of 19th Century European Painting, from David through Cézanne. 2 vols. New York, 1987-1988: II:125, pl. 216.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 184, repro.
1993
Ives, Colta, Margaret Stuffmann and Martin Sonnabend. Daumier Drawings. New York, 1993: 222, fig. 132.
2000
Eitner, Lorenz. French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I: Before Impressionism. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 157-164, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 353, no. 286, color repro.

Technical Summary

null

Related Works

Related Resources

  • Event Type
    Event Name
    March 1–June 1
    Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
    March 5, 2012 at 2:00
    March 7, 2012 at 4:00
    East Building, Auditorium
    Name of docent
    image:
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum
    60 minutes
    Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
    Download the program notes (100k)
  • Self-Guided Tour
    Italian Collection
    image:
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum