Gustave Dore, was a renowned painter and book illustrator, who flourished during the second half of the 19th century (from around 1850 until his death in 1883). He was noted for his illustrations of the Divine Comedy, the Bible and other classics.
Dore's illustrations were characterized by fine detail, technical mastery, and realistic depictions of the human form as well as fantastical creatures such as dragons, angels and demons.
His black and white drawings exhibit a minimalist style using relatively few lines and shades, yet the result is a powerful image that evoke vivid movement and profound emotions. Dore's illustrations of the most dramatic incidents of the Bible, such as the Flood, are especially moving.
The galleries below contain some of the best work by Gustave Dore.
Dore first made his mark by his illustrations to Rabelais (1854) and to Balzac's Contes Drolatiques (1856), which fully displayed his facility of execution and his fantastic power of invention. These were followed by innumerable illustrated editions of other well-known works; in 1861 by Dante's Inferno, in 1863 by the Contes of Perrault in 1863 by Don Quixote, in 1868 by the Purgatorio and Paradiso of Dante, in 1865-66 by the Bible in 1866 by Paradise Lost, in 1867-68 by Tennyson's Idylls of the King, in 1867 by La Fontaine's Fables and many other series of designs, however the his drawings and illustrations made towards the end of his life lacked the same power and vigour, the artist having exhausted himself by incessant over-production.
Although largely At the peak of his fame and popularity, there were Dore galleries in London, Vienna and other major cities of Europe. These galleries sold original works by the artist as well as engravings and reproductions of his book illustrations. Sales of his works allowed Gustave Dore to enjoy a life of affluence.
Despite his success as an illustrator, Dore was also ambitious of ranking as an historical painter, and he executed much in colour. His paintings have not stood the test of time and are now largely forgotten. Among the earliest of his pictures are “The Battle of the Alma,” and “The Battle of Inkermann,” shown in the Salons of 1855 and 1857. Two of Dores most successful oil-pictures are “ Paolo and Francesca da Rimini” (1863), and “The Neophyte” (1868). His “Tobit and the Angel” is in the Luxembourg Gallery. For many years there was a Dore gallery in London, filled with his works, which were more popular there than in France, among which the enormous canvases of “Christ leaving the Praetorium” (1867-72) and “Christ's Entry into Jerusalem” figured prominently. He exhibited frequently at the Paris Salon being exempt from the examination of the jury through his first decoration as chevalier of the Legion of Honor given him by the emperor in 1861. Contemporary critics often found fault in his paintings, stating that his coloring was unreal and wanting in delicacy and harmoniousness, and he had no technical mastery over the methods of oil-painting.
Dore is best known for his book-illustrations, particularly his illustrations for the Bible and Dante. Doré's Bible Illustrations (1865) were a great success and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in New Bond Street. As an illustrator he was marvelously fertile in invention and enjoyed immense popularity. Books illustrated by Dore commanded high prices, and there were Dore galleries in all the major European capitals. Dore himself said that between 1850 and 1870 he earned £280,000 by his illustrations, a fantastic sum in that era.
Dore also displayed some ability as a sculptor. He exhibited a colossal vase decorated with figures at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1878; and at the time of his death, 23d January 1883, he was working on a monument to the elder Dumas.