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Saltimbanques Resting, 1870

Honoré Daumier

French, 1808-1879
Oil on canvas
21-1/2 x 25-3/4 in. (54.6 x 65.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Recognized as the greatest caricaturist of nineteenth-century France, Honoré Daumier had a long and prolific career. His body of work is a veritable reflection of the changes in social, political and cultural practices in France over the course of 50 years. In addition to producing thousands of caricatures, prints and illustrations during his lifetime, Daumier was also a successful sculptor and painter.

This canvas, and its accompanying oil sketch also in the Norton Simon collection, suggest a melancholy that appears in many of Daumier’s later works. The somber mood of Saltimbanques Resting is enhanced by the weighty figures, particularly by the boy and the saltimbanque (a clown-like entertainer) at right, who seem to have gained a considerable amount of girth since the earlier sketch. The figures’ exhaustion may reflect Daumier’s own, as the artist had had a precipitous drop in sales and commissions in the early to mid-1860s. The expressive, loose brushwork and muted luminosity that succeed in conveying the heaviness of the resting troupe appear increasingly in Daumier’s late work, and these new techniques seem to suggest that despite any personal weariness, the artist continued to innovate.

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