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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

Daumier was the great caricaturist of the nineteenth century. He published over 4,000 caricatures in French newspapers, but he was also a painter. Like his print work, Daumier’s paintings often depict people on the margins of modern society—in this case, a group of down-at-heel circus performers: two clowns and a little acrobat. Unlike his caricatures, Daumier’s paintings are comparatively rare and often poorly preserved, since he was essentially self-taught and never learned the finer points of oil technique. The Norton Simon’s ownership of both a study and a finished picture is unusual and instructive; the crackled surface of the sketch may indicate how quickly Daumier worked it up, revising the poses and painting over his mistakes before underlying layers had properly dried.

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