Artibus et Historiae no. 46 (XXIII)

2002, ISSN 0391-9064

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PHILIPPE KAENEL - Don Quixote, Daumier and the Legend of the Artist

Don Quixote occupies an emblematic place in Daumier's work. But contrary to the literary myth of Cervantes's hero, the legend surrounding the artist is based on sparse textual and biographical sources. With 29 paintings and 41 drawings, the Don Quixote motif is the most important in Daumier's work. But why? The «marvelous kinship» (J. Adhémar) between Don Quixote and Daumier must be reinterpreted in the light of ideological, literary and artistic relationships between Spain and France in the 19th century. They reveal that the Don Quixote iconography, far from merely reflecting in an autobiographical fashion the failure of an ageing artist, is instead instrument of conquest and of artistic recognition.

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