Head of Pasquin
Honoré Daumier ( French, 1808 - 1879 )
The figure of Pasquin was derived from the 16th-century Italian Comedia dell'Arte. This form of popular theater plays a large role in French secular painting beginning in the late 17th century. By the 19th century in France, the tradition was in decline and continued to be practiced only for a lower middle class or urban proletarian public.
This small painting on panel is fully signed and finished to a considerably higher degree than the majority of surviving oil paintings by Daumier. The short, gestural strokes of paint almost sculpt the head and body, giving them form in the dramatic theatrical light chosen by the artist. His strongly modeled upper torso and majestic head project an intense, humanist nobility. Interestingly, Daumier denied Pasquin his most obviously expressive features, his hands, preferring to study the seat of his intelligence rather than embody his gestures.
Richard Brettell, Impressionist Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 28-29.
- In spite of the fact that his painted oeuvre includes more than 250 works, only one major exhibition of his paintings was held during his lifetime, a showing at Durand-Ruel's gallery, mounted just months before the painter's death in 1879.