Gustave Doré by Gianna Dickson & Haley Kastendieck

Paul Gustave Louis Doré was a French artist who claimed to have never taken art lessons. His art was as critics say “wild glades, mountain chasms, vast draughty castles, cobwebby dens, picnics of simple peasants round a fire. His is the art not of the drawing room, with all its cozy details, but of Gothic turrets and romantic vistas.” 

He was born in Strasbourg in 1832. From an early age he was always seen with a pencil in his hand. He would even sharpen both ends. He was carving his own lithographic stones and making sets of engravings for illustrated books by twelve. At fifteen he created both text and illustrations for his first published book The Labors of Hercules. He began work at a publishing firm and in just three years he produced seven hundred drawings and five albums.

He had crazy ambitions. One writer explained that Doré could come up with five hundred illustrations for any subject. He worked in his own style producing big canvases he would abandon and then revisit and repaint. He sometimes would regret his success in book illustrations. He said “I must kill the illustrator and be known only as a painter”. Doré wanted to build a better reputation as an artist. He turned to oil, watercolors, and clay almost completely giving up illustrations in his last few years. 

He worked on projects for works by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, Chateaubriand, Byron, Hugo, Shakespeare, and Tennyson. He never received his success in France but in London a Doré Gallery opened. 

Doré passed away at the age of fifty one in 1883. He was just finishing the engravings for an edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. This was his first United States commission. Doré produced over 100,000 sketches in his lifetime. He made over ten thousand engravings, one thousand lithographs, four hundred oil paintings, and thirty sculptures.

The Death, 1883. Illustration of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

As depicted in the picture, Dore’s artistic choices exhibit darkness, with attentive detail to the characters’ expression. In his variation of “Little Red Riding Hood” above, expresses the lack of shock or fear on the girl, as she shares the bed with the wolf who is clearly identifiable. This further demonstrates the naivety of Little Red Riding Hood for trusting the wolf even though the cap is clearly not masking the identity.


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