This volume, as its title indicates, is a collection ofengravings illustrative of the Bible—the designs being all fromthe pencil of the greatest of modern delineators, Gustave Dore.The original work, from which this collection has been made, metwith an immediate and warm recognition and acceptance among thosewhose means admitted of its purchase, and its popularity has inno wise diminished since its first publication, but has evenextended to those who could only enjoy it casually, or infragmentary parts. That work, however, in its entirety, was fartoo costly for the larger and ever-widening circle of M. Dore'sadmirers, and to meet the felt and often-expressed want of thisclass, and to provide a volume of choice and valuable designsupon sacred subjects for art-loving Biblical students generally,this work was projected and has been carried forward. The aim hasbeen to introduce subjects of general interest—that is, thoserelating to the most prominent events and personages ofScripture—those most familiar to all readers; the plates beingchosen with special reference to the known taste of the Americanpeople. To each cut is prefixed a page of letter-press—in,narrative form, and containing generally a brief analysis of thedesign. Aside from the labors of the editor and publishers, thework, while in progress, was under the pains-taking and carefulscrutiny of artists and scholars not directly interested in theundertaking, but still having a generous solicitude for itssuccess. It is hoped, therefore, that its general plan andexecution will render it acceptable both to the appreciative andfriendly patrons of the great artist, and to those who would wishto possess such a work solely as a choice collection ofillustrations upon sacred themes.
The subject of this sketch is, perhaps, the most original andvariously gifted designer the world has ever known. At an agewhen most men have scarcely passed their novitiate in art, andare still under the direction and discipline of their masters andthe schools, he had won a brilliant reputation, and readers andscholars everywhere were gazing on his work with ever-increasingwonder and delight at his fine fancy and multifarious gifts. Hehas raised illustrative art to a dignity and importance beforeunknown, and has developed capacities for the pencil beforeunsuspected. He has laid all subjects tribute to his genius,explored and embellished fields hitherto lying waste, and openednew and shining paths and vistas where none before had trod. Tothe works of the great he has added the lustre of his genius,bringing their beauties into clearer view and warming them to afuller life.
His delineations of character, in the different phases oflife, from the horrible to the grotesque, the grand to the comic,attest the versatility of his powers; and, whatever faults may befound by critics, the public will heartily render their quota ofadmiration to his magic touch, his rich and facile rendering ofalmost every thought that stirs, or lies yet dormant, in thehuman heart. It is useless to attempt a sketch of his variousbeauties; those who would know them best must seek them in thetreasure—house that his genius is constantly augmenting withfresh gems and wealth. To one, however, of his most prominenttraits we will refer—his wonderful rendering of the powers ofNature.
His early wanderings in the wild and romantic passes of theVosges doubtless developed this inherent tendency of his mind.There he wandered, and there, mayhap, imbibed that deep delightof wood and valley, mountain—pass and rich ravine, whose varietyof form and detail seems endless to the enchanted eye. He hascaught the very spell of the wilderness; she has laid her handupon him, and he has gone forth with her blessing. So bold andtruthful and minute are his countless representations of forestscenery; so delicate the tracery of branch and stem; sopatriarchal the giant boles of his woodland monarchs, that the'gazer is at once satisfied and entranced. His vistas lieslumbering with repose either in shadowy glade or fell ravine,either with glint of lake or the glad, long course of somerejoicing stream, and above all, supreme in a beauty all its own,he spreads a canopy of peerless sky, or a wilderness, perhaps, ofangry storm, or peaceful stretches of soft, fleecy cloud, orheavens serene and fair—another kingdom to his teeming art,after the earth has rendered all her gifts.
Paul Gustave Dore was born in the city of Strasburg, January10, 1833. Of his boyhood we have no very particular account. Ateleven years of age, however, he essayed his first artisticcreation—a set' of lithographs, published in his native city.The following year found him in Paris, entered as a 7. student atthe Charlemagne Lyceum. His first actual work began in 1848, whenhis fine series of sketches, the "Labors of Hercules," was givento the public through the medium of an illustrated, journal withwhich he was for a long time connected as designer. In 1856 werepublished the illustrations for Balzac's "Contes Drolatiques" andthose for "The Wandering Jew "—the first humorous and grotesquein the highest degree—indeed, showing a perfect abandonment tofancy; the other weird and supernatural, with fierce battles,shipwrecks, turbulent mobs, and nature in her most forbidding andterrible aspects. Every incident or suggestion that couldpossibly make the story more effective, or add to the horror ofthe scenes was seized upon and portrayed with wonderful power.These at once gave the young designer a great reputation, whichwas still more enhanced by his subsequent works.
With all his love for nature and his power of interpreting herin her varying moods, Dore was a dreamer, and many of his finestachievements were in the realm of the imagination. But he was athome in the actual world also, as witness his designs for"Atala," "London—a Pilgrimage," and many of the scenes in "DonQuixote."
When account is taken of the variety of his designs, and thefact considered that in almost every task he attempted none hadventured before him, the amount of work he accomplished is fairlyincredible. To enumerate the immense tasks he undertook—somesingle volumes alone containing hundreds of illustrations—willgive some faint idea of his industry. Besides those alreadymentioned are Montaigne, Dante, the Bible, Milton, Rabelais,Tennyson's "Idyls of the King," "The Ancient Mariner,"Shakespeare, "Legende de Croquemitaine," La Fontaine's "Fables,"and others still.
Take one of these works—the Dante, La Fontaine, or "DonQuixote"—and glance at the pictures. The mere hand laborinvolved in their production is surprising; but when the qualityof the work is properly estimated, what he accomplished seemsprodigious. No particular mention need be made of him as painteror sculptor, for his reputation rests solely upon his work as anillustrator.
Dore's nature was exuberant and buoyant, and he was youthfulin appearance. He had a passion for music, possessed rare skillas a violinist, and it is assumed that, had he failed to succeedwith his pencil, he could have won a brilliant reputation as amusician.
He was a bachelor, and lived a quiet, retired life with hismother—married, as he expressed it, to her and his art. Hisdeath occurred on January 23, 1883.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS