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Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)
Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)

L'enfant blessé

Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)
L'enfant blessé
signed 'G. Doré' (lower right)
oil on canvas
27 x 18 in. (68.5 x 46 cm.)
Painted circa 1870.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 October 1983, lot 156.

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Alexandra McMorrow

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Lot Essay

Gustave Doré remains one of the most important and versatile artists who worked in France during the nineteenth century. Whilst perhaps best remembered as a graphic artist, illustrating famous works like Don Quixote and the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, he was also a prolific painter and produced some of his most ambitious and important work in the medium.

Doré, aside from the literary and historical subjects represented in prints, often turned to subjects of the everyday and the hardships of contemporary life. In 1872 with the assistance of Blachard Jerrold, he published his famous series of engravings of London, entitled London: a Pilgrimage. Here, he explicitly depicted the poverty and squalor of life in the city’s streets and slums. The book was a great commercial success, with reviews stating that the artist depicted “the commonest, the vulgarest…with an unsparing and rigorous hand. In this…he is supreme’ and that the engravings touched ‘matters of pathos, that we are drawn instinctively to ponder’ (J. Chapman, The Westminster Review, XCIX, 1873, p. 341). The series allowed the artist to refine his skills as an incisive observer of modern life.

In common with many of these images, the present lot portrays the suffering of a working-class woman and her child. She leans against a bare brick wall, holding the sleeping baby in her arms, her eyes closed in fatigue. Doré focuses the composition tightly around the head and shoulders of the figures, dispensing with unnecessary detail and concentrating the emotional intensity of the scene.

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