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A Melancholic Artist and a Choleric Publisher in Honoré Daumier’s Print Series L’Imagination

Notwithstanding the relaxation of French censorship laws after the July Revolution, Honoré Daumier (1809–78) was condemned, in 1832, to a six-month prison term for the publication of the caricature Gargantua, portraying King Louis-Philippe (1773–1850) as Rabelais’s gluttonous giant. On November 11, 1832, after two and a half months in the prison of Sainte-Pélagie, he was transferred for eleven weeks to Dr. J. P. Casimir Pinel’s (1800–66) mental hospital at rue Chaillot. There, far removed from the overcrowded and unhygienic prison, he labored on a series of drawings and watercolors titled L’Imagination, until his release on February 22, 1833. The young printmaker Charles Ramelet (1805–51) made lithographs after Daumier’s sketches, and these started to appear in the press even before the artist had completed his sentence. The first print, published on January 14, 1833 in the new illustrated daily newspaper Le Charivari, depicted an old women daydreaming about inexhaustible wealth. It was accompanied by a short explanation by the editor Charles Philipon (1800–61), Daumier’s publisher, friend, and colleague, stating that the series sought to investigate “diabolic actions, castles in Spain, projects, desires, fixed ideas, and all the chimeras of the imagination.”
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 19th Century, Lithography