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Dead-Eye Daumier

During my last visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, I came across these old favourites of mine: a cabinet full of little bronze sculptures by Daumier:



There are about thirty of them, each one a caricature of a French politician or public figure from the 1830s. Daumier fashioned them in clay in about 1835, but they weren't cast in bronze until nearly a century later.

What I love about them is not just that they are wickedly exaggerated, but that each one is so intensely individualised, so that even though we don't know who any of these people are, we have no doubt that they are accurate exaggerations of real people, with their twisted faces, daft hairstyles, ogreishly ugly faces, and mean expressions.


They may be satirical, like cartoons in three dimensions, but they are still so very skilful and so very beautiful.

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