Gustave Doré, 1832-1883

Biographical note

French artist and illustrator.

Doré was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. Doré began work as a literary illustrator in Paris. Doré commissions include works by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante. In 1853 Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible. In 1863, Doré illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his illustrations of the knight and his squire Sancho Panza have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters. Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.

Doré's English Bible [1866] was a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in New Bond Street. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had gotten the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808. Doré signed a five-year project with the publishers Grant & Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year. He was paid the vast sum of £10,000 a year for his work.

The book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics. Some critics were concerned with the fact that Doré appeared to focus on poverty that existed in London. Doré was accused by the Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying." The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down." The book was also a financial success, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers. Doré's later works included Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tennyson's The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. His work also appeared in the Illustrated London News. Doré continued to illustrate books until his death in Paris in 1883. He is buried in the city's Père Lachaise Cemetery.

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