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Study for "Saltimbanques Resting", c. 1865-1866

Honoré Daumier

French, 1808-1879
Oil on panel
11-3/4 x 14-3/4 in. (29.8 x 37.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© 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.

This work is a study for the larger Saltimbanques Resting of 1870, also in the Norton Simon collection.

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