The rescue | Honoré Daumier | 1870
“The Michelangelo of caricature”. That’s how Honoré Daumier was called in his time. For a simple reason: apart from being a professional lithograph, he was known for publishing political and social caricatures in La Caricature and Le Charivari, two French magazines.
One time, his critic tone was too much: by representing King Louis-Phillipe as Gargantua, he was put in jail for 6 months.
Later in his life, he began painting. His canvases had the same motifs than his caricatures, as he was concerned for portraying scenes of everyday life of the ones who had less: peasants, beggars and some political activists. That’s why, like Millet, from who he was contemporary, Daumier was one of the pioneers of the naturalist movement.
In the scene from today, we see a man that had rescued a little girl from drowning in the sea, at the background. Next to him, a woman worried for the child. To represent a symbol of innocence, or for the pale of cyanosis, the little girl is extremely white if we compare her with the other two characters. I think that Daumier wants us to notice that the older ones are peasants, because the tone of their skin reflects hard days of work outdoors. Also like Millet, we see this idea that, despite the suffering of the workers, they still have values that are absent in the more “educated” or “civilized” bourgeoisie: the attitude of the man in the painting is proud and triumphant.
Daumier doesn’t focus on details. He probably was not interested in them if the message of the painting was clear, which is coherent with his lack of formal art education and with his strictly social mission: Daumier didn’t paint to be famous or to please the higher class, but to show social injustice.
Blind and poor, his artist friend, Corot, lent him one of his cabins to live. Until 1877, one year before he died, his paintings had no success but, after his death, he had admirers like Degas, Delacroix and Baudelaire.