Friday, February 21, 2014

Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want to learn to draw, then trace. And trace until you're blue in the face. Do yourself a big favor and trace from Gustave Doré.

There's a huge show on at the Musée D'Orsay. It opened Wednesday. I went Thursday early days but it was packed.

This Beaux Arts former train station is the perfect site for 19th century illustrator Doré.

You might think you're in for a lot of fine, grey lines...quelle boring.

In fact Doré's lines could not be more invigorating and lively.

His prodigious talent was on a grand scale.

Big complicated sculptures.

Large salon paintings were all part of his metier.

Yet his illustrations jump off the pages of many, many books and journals.
 His earliest drawings are astonishing. He came to Paris as a boy of 15 fromStrasbourg and dazzled 
publishers with his drawings.

These sketches may look simple but they foretell far more complicated pictures.

Film makers, cinematographers turn to Doré's elaborate illustrations for their movie sets.

Doré's London scenes like this are still a perfect source of inspiration for Dickens' Oliver Twist.

The list of films is endless.

I was surprised how crowded the exhibit was and the bookshop was jammed with buyers. I picked up this big book of political portrait drawings of L'Assemblée Nationale 1871.

The fluid, economical gestural lines are a marvel. An excellent tracing project if you have a pad of Utrecht paper around. For some unknown reason you can't find good, thin (and cheap) tracing paper in Paris or London.

The Musée D'Orsay is a grand space to visit even if you're not into line engravings, drawings or Doré.

So many huge clocks around Paris...not just at Les Editeurs.

The views outside are enthralling even on a grey drizzly day.

When you leave the museum you take Doré with you.

The surrounding buildings reflect back all the detail and swirls of the artist's lines.

Naturally Paris gateaux thank goodness, will always be full of swirls and lyrical swoops. Gosselin up on the corner of nearby rue de Bellechasse can provide you with edible Doré-style creations. There's almost always a cake or two on Parisbreakfast. Bon Weekend PBers!


  1. The d'Orsay is one of my all time favorite museums ever. Love that place. Oh and that last sweet looks like a piece of art.

    1. It is a step back in time with a very contemporary twist isn't it..

  2. It's funny how you even follow me browsing computers..our old dinosaur run on XP..a nono after April..I know.. I know Apple..but I think we are PC Windows people..
    Anyways the nice computer salesman showed us a Lenovo..touch..Windows 8..that RECLNES..27 inches..
    making it a GREAT light box:)
    He had me at that.
    Nothing purchased yet..window shopping..
    But you were foremost in my mind:) Right up there with teh Windows 8 photo program.
    Looks like a most beautiful place to visit Carol~

    1. No light box was used in these drawings!
      Just Utrecht tracing pad plus book.
      C'est tout!

  3. It is a world-class museum and my personal favorite! Even if you aren't an art lover, the building, itself, is phenomenal. I envy you being able to go at the drop of a top hat!

  4. Oooooh, sigh, Musée d'Orsay & its surroundings...Now I'm REALLY dreaming about going back! The depth, detail, precision & use of light in the London scene is so different from those giant round people paintings, no? Merci, R.

    1. There wasn't much the man couldn't draw.

  5. A stunning exhibition; so interesting, he was a true graphite man, I remember a book my grandmother had wit his illustrations, large, (the book )eerie and otherworldly.
    The D'Orsay is gorgeous!
    Thank you for the Dick Blick tip......xx

    1. It's Utrecht tracing paper pads 9x12" ($6.89) not Dick Blick
      You can order online if not store is near you Julie

  6. Thanks! I'm headed there next week: I can always count on you to scout the best exhibits and give the thumbs up!

  7. Carol, you are an inspiration! I think you are the reason I am taking a watercolor class next month…..wish me luck!

  8. I hope this is still on in September! I was mostly familiar with the etchings.

  9. Thank you so much for this brief yet informative insight into a wonderful artist and fantastic museum space. Alas, no way of viewing since I am sitting here in hot sunny Australia!

  10. I think that I love the museum - inside & out - as much as the exhibit :) What a beautiful building!
    Dore's illustration of grimy London is my favorite, I think; although there is a lot to like!

  11. Katherine9:03 PM

    Thanks, Carol, for the inspiration to trace, and a revisit to D'Orsay. I don't know much of Dore; I appreciate the introduction. What an incredible artist- such breadth. Ohhh and the gateaux!

    1. Tracing is a lot like doing scales - a way to warm up. Plus you get to walk in someone else's shoes

  12. Jeanie9:12 PM

    Gustave Dore was always one of my favorite illustrators. I remember so many books with his enigmatic and/or charming illustrations. But I had no idea that he was also a sculptor or master of the large painting too. So, I really did love this post in every way! And what a perfect venue for his exhibit. I'm glad you bought a book -- I'm not surprised the shop was jammed!

  13. Lynne C.9:20 PM

    Enjoyed very much...there is so many wonderful things to do over there ....

  14. Do you know about waterlogueapp dot com? I was wondering what your thought of it. I was wondering if it is worth purchasing the app.

    1. I bought it.
      And played with it for an hour or so and now nada. It's not a substitute for actipual painting. I thought I'd learn some shortcuts but no. Still it is fun and pretty maybe if you do Instagram?

    2. Thanks. The reviews were good, but probably not if you are an artist. I thought it might teach me something.

  15. What a great post.. what a great idea to trace, never really thought about it like that.. Merci Carol!


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