Deux saltimbanques / Two Saltimbanques, ca. 1865–70

Honoré Daumier was known above all for his socio-historically relevant lithographs in the area of the newspaper caricature. In innumerable works, he used his keen powers of observation to comment on the rapidly unfolding political events in France, the world of its solicitors, and the joys, horrors and fears of its citizens. The conciseness of Daumier’s satirical ideas was as decisive for his success as his exceptional talents as a draughtsman. With economical means and outstanding perceptiveness, he here describes a melancholy scene of two aged gleemen. He employs a sketchy style to portray them in an off moment outside the public focus. The rather tubby figure has seated himself and turns towards his partner with dangling legs; the latter, more slender fellow makes a somewhat gloomy impression. The heavily shaded eye sockets emphasise the look of introspection. Daumier drew from the world of street artists again and again. While he liked to present the spectacle of the funfair in the motif of the parade as a magnet of the public attention, he tended to depict saltimbanques as quiet, solitary figures – a subject readily adopted in the twentieth century by such artists as Picasso and Beckmann.

Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Pen, washed in grey, on ribbed hand-made paper
241 x 156 mm
Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e. V.

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