Google Art Project comparison of two works that feature crowds by Honore Daumier in The Phillips Collection: at left, Le Public du Salon: Un jour où l’on ne paye pas…, 1852. Lithograph on paper. 14 1/8 x 10 in. Gift of the Dwight Clark Bequest; at right, The Uprising (L’Emeute), 1848 or later. Oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 44 1/2 in. Acquired 1925
With the presidential inauguration just days away, with an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people expected to gather, now’s the perfect time to revisit the small but captivating gallery of political cartoons by Honoré Daumier and Patrick Oliphant on view through January 31.
Daumier, especially, seems to have a penchant for depicting crowds of people in his works. Daumier’s lithograph Le Public du Salon (1852) packs in a mass of people attempting to navigate an art salon. Everything about the piece is crowded, from the bustling figures to the artworks hung closely together on the walls. A woman stands in the foreground, a harrowed expression on her face as she nervously pushes her way through the crowd while those around her demonstrate similar exasperation.
Daumier’s lithograph hangs alongside Oliphant’s work, aptly titled Homage to Daumier (2000). This piece references another work by Daumier in the collection, The Uprising (1848 or later). One of Duncan Phillips’s favorite paintings that he owned, the museum founder described it as a “symbol of all pent up human indignation.” The painting depicts another crowd, this one dominated by a light-haired figure gesturing forcefully across the canvas, his emotional expression echoed in the faces of all those behind him. In Oliphant’s appropriation of the work, the artist depicts himself alongside The Uprising, joining the crowd in a sense with a look on his face of intense concentration and, perhaps, anxiety reflecting his own contemporary sense of political turmoil.
Elizabeth Kachavos, Marketing Intern
Honoré Daumier, Le Public du Salon: Un jour où l’on ne paye pas…, 1852. Lithograph on paper. 14 1/8 x 10 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of the Dwight Clark Bequest.
A small gallery on the top floor of the house features the work of Honoré Daumier and Patrick Oliphant. It is a small display–four works by Daumier and five by Oliphant–and will be on view through the Presidential Inauguration in 2013. Oliphant earned the ire of more than a few of those in power with his crafty drawings, and he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1966. After nearly 50 years, he is still producing his visual commentaries on world events.
Daumier, however, received no accolades during his lifetime for his caricatures, paintings and sculptures satirizing contemporary life. Instead he was imprisoned for months for his troubles. He didn’t let that stop him. One could simply change the title to Senate or House or Congress of his lithograph Le Ventre Legislatif (1884), and it would resonate today. By comparison, Oliphant’s Naked Nixon (1905) would have definitely landed him in prison back in Daumier’s day.
Honoré Daumier was one of Duncan Phillips’s favorite painters. He often cited The Uprising (1848 or later) as the greatest work in the collection. For Oliphant, Daumier is a personal hero, and he has portrayed himself next to The Uprising studying it with astonishment (or perhaps he is listening to it, hoping to hear advice or encouragement). Pat Oliphant’s work can also be seen at the National Portrait Gallery, which has about 90 of his drawings and sculptures in its collection.
The next time you glance at the political cartoon on the editorial page of your newspaper, remember that this powerful art form was at the birth of modern art.
Ianthe Gergel, Museum Assistant
Patrick Oliphant, Homage to Daumier, Feb. 20, 2000. Ink, ink wash and pencil on paper, 9 1/2 x 12 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of the artist, 2002.