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Title: Media and the Politics of Satire in the Art of Honoré Daumier
Authors: Duncan-O'Neill, Erin
Advisors: Alsdorf, Bridget
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Though famous for his lithographic caricatures, the French artist Honoré Daumier worked in a variety of artistic materials, creating paintings, drawings, sculptures, and woodblock prints, often reworking the same motif in two or more media. Daumier’s oeuvre, perhaps more than any other in the modern era, shows the interdependence of various media, both visual and verbal. His media translations pose questions about process, reception, genre, and authorship, reshuffling the hierarchy of value attached to artistic materials and their modes of display. Yet the literature lacks a serious consideration of his decidedly multimedia practice. By interrogating the role of media in Daumier’s art, this dissertation shows that the politics of satire motivated Daumier’s long-standing investment in problems of representation. The artist had a deep and abiding engagement with two literary satirists, Molière and Cervantes. By appropriating some of their imitative and parodic strategies, satire became a conceptual model for Daumier’s material practice. This dissertation seeks to bridge the scholarly divide between Daumier’s work for the illustrated press and his more private paintings, sculptures, and drawings by proposing that his media translations established the same kind of reflexive references to representation as satire, challenging the boundaries of medium, genre, style, and censorship law and artistic movements during periods of severely restricted speech. Drawing on extensive archival research and close analysis of the artist’s works, I bear down on several pivotal moments of entanglement between popular media and more traditional categories of artistic production in the 19th century. Art historians have been writing about the influence of popular media on the fine arts since the 1960s, but unlike most artists included in such histories, the print was often Daumier’s final goal, while the so-called fine arts were his way stations, experiments, and throwaways. He manipulated the viewer’s impressions of scale and speed through shifts in material, format, and technique and interrogated each medium’s conventions of access and display. Ultimately, I argue that the political force of Daumier’s work hinges on his experiments with artistic media and on his engagement with literary and theatrical forms of parodic critique.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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