Satirist Honoré Daumier’s Spaces of the Art World

Think you’re up to your eyeballs in art fairs, museum exhibitions, and gallery shows? Then sympathize with the Parisian subjects in the lithographs of satirist extraordinaire Honoré Daumier. During the 1850s, the heyday of Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, and Charles Baudelaire, and, arguably, the very birth of modern art, it became de rigueur for the bourgeoisie to visit salons, world fairs, and even artists ateliers to keep abreast of art-world developments. Daumier depicted these spaces of the art world, often including an underhanded jab at the attendees, whose earnest commentary actually reveals a humorous lack of sophistication and self-awareness—as seen in the images to the right.

Mr. Prudhomme visiting a studio before a painting exhibition:

- “I can’t be mistaken, it’s a landscape. Very charming. If I had decided to become a painter myself, I wouldn’t have painted anything but landscapes, it’s more appropriate...but why does this sun have so few rays?

- “Because it’s the moon!”

- “Ah, yes, charming. See here, a painting one could show to women!”

At the World’s Fair:

- “This Courbet makes such vulgar paintings...there’s nobody on earth this ugly!”

Visiting Public at the Salon:

- “Say, this guy must’ve had some pretty strange ideas to have made her portrait this way!”

So while the line at MoMA’s Rain Room may seem daunting, it could be worse: no iPhone, no A/C, top hats and petticoats! Be sure to check out Artsy’s collection of Daumier prints from The Phillips Collection.  

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