Daumier’s drinkers

On 29 January 2020, by Agathe Albi-Gervy

Kept in the same private collection since the 19th century, this drawing by Honoré Daumier is a rediscovery. The two drinkers will enrich the catalogue raisonné currently being prepared.

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Les Buveurs (Daumier’s Drinkers), ca. 1860, wash, ink, watercolour and Conté pencil on paper, 20.5 x 24.6 cm.
Estimate: $150,000/300,000

Honoré Daumier’s drawings and paintings are harder to date than his lithographs. Seldom exhibited and, therefore, rarely seen by critics, they left few clues. Much scarcer in the market than his lithographs, the drawings demonstrate a command of space, movement and anatomy, disproving contemporary critics who refused to consider him an artist. Daumier’s drinkers adopt various poses. They relax under a shady tree in an oil painting at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, sing in a drawing at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, engage in a serious face-to-face discussion in a watercolour at the Baltimore Museum of Art or here, quench their thirst together. A sweeping human comedy unfolds on paper. Like his laundrywomen, lawyers, street performers and bourgeois, Daumier’s drinkers compose a social fresco reflecting his time, just like his contemporary Honoré de Balzac’s The Human Comedy. These works also reveal a bit about himself: his account books show that he purchased prodigious amounts of wine, rivalling the cellars of his friends Corot and Daubigny. Several hundred bottles were carefully inventoried after his death.

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