Honoré Daumier (1808 –1879): The Wrestler
Oil on wood | 42 x 27.5 cm | C. 1852
Daumier’s paintings often – thanks to the intimacy – have something of the private sphere about them – as if the observer is given access to an unknown part of an otherwise fully accessible area. In this picture he deals with a favourite motif of the age: a wrestling match. But as something peculiar to Daumier’s pictorial world, the focus is very much on the non-combatant wrestler, who steps forth in solitary majesty in the foreground towards the observer. It is his gaze back towards the arena that gives the fight scene its meaning. The contrast between the two scenes of the picture is reinforced by the contrast of light and darkness, distributed in foreground and background, public place and private sphere, activity and passivity, the discharge of energy and thoughtfulness.
Daumier is known for his large graphic works. He drew political caricatures and made lithographs for the satirical journals La Caricature and Le Charivari. His paintings, on the other hand, were something he rarely showed in public. Central to Daumier’s work is his commitment to social criticism.
Motifs: Contemporary events, portraits, illustrations for the book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and everyday scenes from Paris.
Read more about Daumier at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.