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INTRODUCTION TO THE PAINTING SECTION OF THE DAUMIER CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ


With this interactive online work catalogue on Daumier's oil paintings you are looking at the third part of the Daumier Register. Two more sections will follow containing Daumier's sculptures and drawings. The first two parts - 4'000 lithographs and 1'000 wood engravings - have been made available already a few years ago and the growing Daumier community is constantly making use of this research tool. At the same time, a separate website, www.daumier.org is showing all relevant information on Daumier's life and work. It is regularly updated with the latest findings and data.

This new part of the Daumier Register dealing with the oil paintings is, like in the past, aimed at collectors, Museum curators, teachers and students. It is an integrated section in the existing structure of the Daumier Register; the same search functions can thus be used and combined as in the past. Some new functions have been added to facilitate research and understanding of the oil paintings and their similarities to Daumier's printed oeuvre.

Earlier authors like A. Alexandre and K.E. Maison have not accepted the connection between lithographs and paintings. The interactive search functions in our catalogue raisonné make it possible to detect these similarities - this was previously only possible with great difficulties - and to draw a connecting line in time between certain paintings and lithographs. Moreover a great deal of information is available simultaneously for lithographs, wood engravings and oil paintings facilitating the task of comparison.

When preparing the database for the oil paintings we were faced with entirely unexpected problems, which we could not anticipate from the experience we had when working on the catalogues of lithographs and wood engravings.  

It very often proved to be a highly difficult task to review the provenance of each painting, in some cases it was even impossible. Many indications were challenging to trace back or resulted in contradicting information. The Second World War had caused among other things a far-reaching change in the ownership of art objects. Daumier paintings were transferred from France to Germany with the help of Art historians or dealers who collaborated with the Nazi Regime. They acted as interim stations for Jewish property with the result that still today there are open questions between heirs and new owners to be resolved.

Thanks to the Washington Agreement some of these cases could be resolved. The German Lost Art Register proved to be a good source for provenance research. In several other cases we faced great difficulties in obtaining information from the Museums in Moscow or St. Petersburg about a number of Daumier paintings that had ended up in Russia after the war (!).

Most Daumier paintings can now be found in Museums or foundations. It usually proved quite difficult to discuss with some of these owners certain purchases or donations that date back to more than a generation of curators. Naturally there are too many elements that play a role, especially in regard to provenance or authenticity of a painting. We were totally lacking this experience from our previous work with the graphic work catalogue and we had to redefine our interest and task.

Like with the prints, we endeavor to identify the multitude of copies and fake paintings that are flooding the market. Being passionate collectors ourselves it had always disturbed us to see such offers and feel that they are offending the genius of this outstanding artist. For this reason we constantly show and comment fakes on our website www.daumier.org as well as in the Daumier Register. We believe that since this information has been made available to collectors and dealers, the amount of imitations offered may have been reduced and it is our wish that in the future buyers and sellers will profit from these warnings.

We also hope that this work catalogue will contribute to finding paintings that were previously believed to be lost. We welcome any information about such works and we will follow them up with owners or institutions. Furthermore we encourage any comments and indications concerning errors, which we will be able to correct immediately. This is our great advantage to any printed work catalogue.

Like with the lithographs and wood engravings we will not just be accumulating information about each work, but we go a step further: Unlike in the print section, for paintings the dating, provenance, technique, exhibitions and literature are of utmost importance. They contribute greatly to the identification of a painting. However, we feel that these points of interest are still not sufficient. For this reason we are adding, wherever possible, background information for each work.

Our research is based not only on the extensive Daumier literature and existing work catalogues but also on information given in auction catalogues which we were able to consult going back to Daumier’s time. In addition to these publications, the Internet offers numerous possibilities to gather and compare information and facts. Last but not least, we are extremely grateful for the collaboration with Museums, Universities and private collectors who graciously offered to open their treasure of information. Their generous help has greatly facilitated our work; we wouldn’t be able to publish this catalogue if it weren’t for their readiness to collaborate. Click HERE to see a list of these collectors and institutions to whom we owe our deep gratitude.

REMARKS TO VARIOUS SEARCH FUNCTIONS AND LISTS

TITLES

One of the important search functions concerns the title of an image. It is not a simple function, since most oil paintings carry not only one, but several titles. Only in very few cases it has been confirmed that a title was given by Daumier himself.

We find some indications in Daumier’s „carnet de comptes“, published in parts by Cherpin and later by Bruce Laughton, as well as in various letters and receipts for paintings sold to collectors or dealers. But it is mostly unclear which work was sold when Daumier stated for example “delivered theatre painting to Mr. M.”. Without detailed research it is therefore difficult to guess which of the many theatre paintings he was referring to or who the buyer (Mr. M.) might have been.

One can assume that the original title of a painting was in French, either given by Daumier himself or by a dealer or auction house. When Daumier started to become famous internationally a number of his paintings were either sold to clients in Germany, England/Scotland/Wales and the United States or lent to international exhibitions. This resulted in a certain “internationalization” of the Art commerce around 1900. Galleries and auction houses started opening companies abroad and became active in Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Zurich and London, later also in New York and Boston.

This explains the fact that many titles of Daumier’s paintings were translated into various languages. Furthermore an auction house or art dealer had the possibility to change a title according to his own judgment or to satisfy a political motivation. The “Coup de vent” became in the course of 40 years “Les fugitifs”.

In some foreign exhibitions, like for example at Matthiesen in Berlin (1926) it can be noticed that the titles were translated liberally into German. The exhibition catalogue showed the German titles printed in capital letters while the original French title was printed in small letters. When a painting was sold, the buyer received a receipt in German showing the German title. The same painting may have been sold twenty years later at an auction in the United States under an English title and the German and French titles were not mentioned any longer.

This explains why some of Daumier’s paintings carry up to ten different titles. We hope that this multitude of titles as documented in the Daumier Register will facilitate the search for certain works.

DIFFERENT MEDIA

Originally we had expected that the oil paintings were easily attributable to a medium. In reality we had the choice between these variations:

•    Canvas
•    Panel
•    Paper laid down on canvas or on wood
•    Carton
•    Unknown medium

When researching and comparing the existing work catalogues and all auction catalogues from the last 150 years that are still available we noticed very often that different authors described the same works differently. Initially we were under the impression that we were dealing with different paintings worked on various supports. But when we compared the sizes, the provenance and the exhibitions history it became clear that this was not the case. Either some of the dealers or auction houses did not examine the works in depth or their description was not accurate. Some of these mistakes were taken over by the next author or dealer without further examination.

In some cases it happened that a painting described to be on paper would be laid down on wood or canvas at the occasion of a later restoration.

It was our aim to correct these mistakes whenever possible, and we hope to have been successful in most cases. Yet there are some lost paintings where photographs and information are missing. In these cases we had to refrain from defining the medium and we registered them as “unknown medium”.

Where it was possible, we mentioned all labels, numbers, custom notes, handwritten notes etc. on the back of a painting or on the frame. These additional indications should help when trying to identify a painting.

DAUMIER WORK CATALOGUES

We based our work on these existing work catalogues:

•    Arsène Alexandre (1888)
•    Erich Klossowski  (1908, 1923)
•    Eduard Fuchs (1930)
•    Jean Adhémar (1954)
•    K.E. Maison (1967)
•    P. Georgel & G. Mandel, L. Barzini (1971, 1972)

When working with these catalogues it soon became obvious that each author had incorporated a great deal of information from his predecessors. Klossowksi in his original work catalogue of 1908 and his revised edition of 1923 used information from Arsène Alexandre from 1888 and 1893. Fuchs in turn based his catalogue of 1930 on Klossowski and added some of his own findings and discoveries. Adhémar published some of his own findings regarding the most important works of the Master.

The most detailed of the modern work catalogues is by K.E. Maison from 1967. He examined all the previous works by Klossowski, Fuchs and Adhémar in detail. Where necessary, he made corrections and consolidated the results with his own research. The outcome was an in depth register which still today is an important work of reference. Without this treasure of information the Daumier-Register would hardly have been possible.

Georgel & Mandel (and Barzini in his Italian edition) edited a short version of Maison’s findings and amplified them with some details unknown to Maison, when publishing their work catalogue in the 1970’s.

The latest addition was „Honoré Daumier: A Thematic Guide to the Oeuvre“, Garland Press, 1989 by Louis Provost and Elizabeth Childs. This is the actual forerunner of the Daumier-Register. Provost used early computer programs to show connections between paintings and lithographs. He also incorporated search functions. However, the result was a technical register difficult to digest for the layman. It still is suitable for research, but is very complex for the private collector.

All above mentioned work catalogues are searchable in the Daumier-Register and facilitate the comparison of work catalogue numbers and information for each painting.

Apart from the above-mentioned catalogues further sources of information for our work were found in

•    Exhibition catalogues from 1860 to 2010
•    Auction catalogues from 1888 and 2010

Especially auction catalogues offering complete Daumier collections from estate sales proved to be an important source of information. Collections like Arosa, Bureau, Doria, to mention just a few, were reliable sources of provenance, historical background, sizes and exhibition history.

It is our hope that the list of all work catalogues will facilitate the search for a certain oil painting. Furthermore we are convinced that the comparison between prints and the painted oeuvre will be facilitated.

SIGNATURE AND MONOGRAM

In the course of our research we noticed that Daumier’s signature and monogram was very often described differently in different sales and auction catalogues. In some older catalogues a certain work was described as “signed”, while this indication might have been missing in more recent listings. In other cases a “signature” was mentioned, which should have been described as “monogram”.

We tried to examine these cases and found that occasionally the reason for these differences might in some instances lie in a restoration work, where a signature or a monogram was over painted after it had become invisible when the oil colors had darkened over the years. It may sound somewhat daring, but for Daumier the question of signatures was rather unimportant.

It seems risky to judge Daumier’s work on the grounds of his signature. More important and significant are aspects like technique, expression, provenance, literature and exhibitions when examining the authenticity of a work. The question of a signature’s authenticity would rather occupy a minor position on our list of criteria.


THEMES

One of the more popular search functions with collectors of Daumier prints is the list of „Themes“. It enables the user to choose a theme – e.g. Lawyers – and find all the relevant prints of this category. By combining several themes – e.g. Lawyers and Glasses and Hats – the search can be refined greatly.

It seemed only natural to continue offering this search function – containing nearly 850 different themes - also for the oil paintings, where it helps not only to find certain oil paintings but also to compare between prints and paintings. It will be possible to search for the theme Lawyers and find all the relevant pictures in the medium prints as well as in paintings and to compare the same subject in different techniques.


DATING

A new list in the oil catalogue gives the year of creation of a work. This information is relevant for most of Daumier’s oil paintings; to date a work reliably, however, is highly problematic and most authors deal with the problem in different ways. Their arguments may be reasonable and valuable, but they certainly pose new questions. We follow the opinion of Bruce Laughton who states: to reliably date Daumier’s work is a highly speculative endeavor.

A useful indication for the date of origin of a painting, which earlier authors like Alexandre and Maison often discarded, is the correlation between Daumier’s printed and painted oeuvre.

Jean Adhémar, however, an equally competent Daumier specialist, is applying this argument in his work catalogue for the dating of paintings. Since we have gathered a certain experience in both prints and paintings over the years we find striking similarities between the two media and are convinced that these might be indications for attributing the correct date to a painting.

We feel that the comparisons and similarities that we are showing in the oil work catalogue offer a helpful tool for art historians who wish to reliably date Daumier’s painted oeuvre. They will also be able to compare their findings with the opinions of Daumier experts going back over more than a hundred years.

Only very few paintings are accompanied by references, letters or invoices, giving clear indications to their date. For most other works we decided to attribute time periods for their origin, since exact dating is not realistically possible. In accordance with Laughton we tried, whenever possible, to avoid speculative dating. It appeared more significant to compare either technique or theme of a painting with corresponding works in his printed oeuvre. From these comparisons we tried to determine the period in which the painting could have been created.

We are aware of the fact that from an art historic point of view this method might not be considered highly scientific. But we take consolation in the thought that experienced art historians like Fuchs, Adhémar, Rey, Maison and others arrive at such different dates that one can hardly speak of scientifically sound findings.


REFERENCES

Under this heading we offer a „bibliography“ for each painting. The listed publications (with page indications) point to descriptions of the work in the literature.

The quality and quantity of the references depend much on how well known a painting is.  As an example: the famous and important painting “third class carriage” in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is listed with 36 references. These are only the more important publications dealing with this work. In secondary literature this painting has been mentioned more than a hundred times.

The number of references in our list sometimes also depends on information we have received from Museums and private collectors or on findings within our own library.

Pictures of a lesser importance or lost paintings are naturally showing a minor number of literature references. In any case, we endeavored to gather as much information as possible in order to facilitate research for each painting, regardless of its importance.

It is self explanatory that these references are of utmost significance when valuing or attributing a painting to Daumier. Paintings that are not mentioned in the literature or have not been shown in international exhibitions should be regarded with caution. On the other hand, it is never the quantity of literature or of exhibitions that determines the authenticity of a painting, but always the quality.


EXHIBITIONS

This list shows all the exhibitions in which a certain painting has been shown. The first important Daumier exhibition was at Durand-Ruel in Paris, 1878. It was organized by his friends shortly before his death and presided by Victor Hugo. Daumier’s most important works were exhibited there, mostly from private collections. Unfortunately the show did not stir much interest in the public; apparently the date of the exhibition was unfavorable.

After that, two more expositions followed in 1888 and 1901 at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Between 1901 and 1910 the first international shows took place in Glasgow, Vienna, Dublin, Berlin, Dresden; between 1910 and 1920 St. Petersburg, London, Bremen and Zurich followed.

In 1926 E. Fuchs organized the first important foreign sales exhibition. It took place in Berlin at the Matthiesen gallery and showed among others some Daumier works from the collection of Fuchs, which, as we know today, were not quite clearly attributable to Daumier.

Since many paintings had also been sold to the United States, the new director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York organized an important Corot-Daumier exhibition in 1930 with works from American and European collections.

The last important exhibition of the present time took place in 1999/2000 and traveled to Paris, Ottawa and Washington. An outstanding choice of exposed works by Daumier offered an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest findings in Daumier research, combined with first class articles – a quality of a century!

The year 2008 was the occasion for celebrating Daumier’s 200th birthday. In Europe, America and Australia around 80 Daumier exhibitions took place, an indication for the ever-growing interest in this artist’s work (see the exhibitions list on the Daumier website under http://www.daumier.org/index.php?id=21 .

Exhibition references are, like literature references, in direct connection to the valuation of a painting. A work that has never been exhibited nor mentioned in the literature merits more research in order to determine its authenticity. Usually the preparatory work of a Museum curator when organizing an exhibition stands for the acceptance of a painting. There are several examples in the past when in case of doubt a painting has been removed from the exhibition (e.g. Philadelphia 1937) although it has already been published in the catalogue.

Nevertheless, there is no guarantee for authenticity when a painting appears in an exhibition; vice versa, a work never exposed is not necessarily a fake.


PROVENANCE

As mentioned earlier, the Daumier Register offers the search function „Provenance“ in order to facilitate the identification of a painting. Wherever possible we tried to supply a complete provenance which means that ideally a painting can be followed from its beginning to the present. Unfortunately, this is not the case for each work, since in a painting’s history there are often periods unaccounted for.

It proved not to be an easy task to accumulate this information since indications in auction catalogues and literature are often not precise or altogether missing. Also in the case of lost paintings there are by definition missing pieces of information.

Listing previous owners does grant a certain security in regard to the authenticity of a painting, yet it represents only one element of the entire information, which in the end makes a difference in this regard. There are enough examples where a Fuchs provenance is not sufficient proof for authenticity. Although Fuchs was an expert on Daumier’s oeuvre and had a considerable collection of about 27 Daumier oil paintings, his opinion on certain pictures after the Second World War was controversial.

Other collectors like Dr. Georges Viau and his son, who were well known and established in the Paris art scene during Daumier’s time and had a considerable collection of Daumier paintings (about 16) are not of indisputable reference. Dr. Viau was known for occasionally „improving“ Daumier’s works; therefore paintings coming from his collections need to be examined carefully.

The same caution is advised for paintings from the Jules Braut collection (he owned 6 paintings).

Some private collectors prefer to remain anonymous. In these cases we marked their collections with a key number known only to us. If art historians wish to contact such a collector we will endeavor to make the contact, but cannot guarantee for the outcome. Other collectors are unknown also to us and we had no possibility to inspect their Daumier holdings.

As mentioned before, the Washington Agreement and the German association for lost art from the time of the War are helpful in unveiling certain provenances. Whenever this occurs we are in a position to make immediate changes and corrections to our provenance list. It would be very satisfying to one day be able to locate stolen art with this tool.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION

What proved to be a popular source of information in the work catalogue for prints should not be missing in the oil catalogue: the thematic evaluation of each work, the relation of certain paintings to similar other paintings and the thematic comparison between prints and paintings. Furthermore we attributed several themes to each work and explained historic and artistic meanings. This section of “background information” goes far beyond the customary description found in traditional catalogue raisonnés.

For this task we established an extensive Daumier literature of more than 800 titles, which you can consult by clicking HERE. See also a complete bibliography on Daumier’s life and work in our Daumier website under http://www.daumier.org/index.php?id=23 , containing about 2’000 titles.  

Due to the large amount of literature on Daumier’s life and work, very often the given information is repetitive. New research is scarce or it rarely offers new insight. We tried to present a good choice of significant information on each painting and hopefully the various opinions spanning over more than a century propose a representative means of comparison.  

Over the course of several generations, the observations, opinions and valuations have seen considerable changes and allow for a fascinating retrospect of a painting.

Being passionate collectors of Daumier’s art ourselves, we could of course not refrain from adding our own opinion to the ones given by renowned art historians. In some cases there is agreement with these specialists; in others the opinions diverge. We hope that the professionals will react understandingly and we invite any comment. If we have made mistakes – of which we are certain, as much as our predecessors were adding to some confusion – we at least have the advantage of correcting them immediately. The Internet allows us to live up to Daumier’s advice: “Il faut être de son temps”.

We see one of our tasks in the discovery of imitations, copies and fakes. Already during Daumier’s lifetime some of his popular paintings had been copied repeatedly. Not always were these copies offered on the market; often the copyists were simply experimenting.

Over the years and with increasing value of Daumier’s paintings, some of these artists or dealers were apparently tempted to add a signature and sell these works on the art market as an “original”. Still today some of these imitations end up in the commerce, very often accompanied by falsified certificates of authentication.

We are occasionally confronted, just like Maison in his time, with such fakes or imitations, when an owner asks for an authentication of a work. In most cases these are obvious copies done after a work by or in the manner of Daumier. Some of them are paintings that had been accepted by Fuchs and other experts as authentic works by Daumier. The quality of information has since then (1930) improved considerably and it is today much easier to establish an opinion about the authenticity of a painting than 80 years ago.


SIMILARITIES

An interesting new feature in the oil part of the Daumier Register is the list of similarities. As explained above, we feel that Daumier’s printed oeuvre is unquestionably connected with his painted work. To establish a correlation in time, however, between certain paintings and prints is not always reliably possible. With the help of our list the user can see and compare the similar features in the various techniques.

In some cases the period of creation might be the same for both media; in others they might differ by years. Occasionally, Daumier used a theme for a lithograph, which he took up again ten years later to produce a drawing or a painting. The reasons for this difference in time are still mostly unknown and would thus justify detailed research.

The similarities list will reveal correlations that have not been obvious before. Apart from our own definitions of similarities we have also listed those from other authors. These are usually also discussed and commented in the background information section.

An interesting observation in this context is that Daumier in some cases used the same theme once as a caricature and then again in a serious oil painting. This can especially be studied in his pictures of children and women: in his graphic work they are usually shown in an unattractive and caricaturist manner, while in his paintings they are drawn as sympathetic, often beautiful persons.

Finally, we would like to inform the users of the Daumier Register that after completion of this oil section there will follow the catalogue raisonné of Daumier’s drawings. Until this is done the list of similarities shows Maison’s drawing numbers when comparing drawings to paintings (K.E. Maison, “Honoré Daumier, Catalogue raisonné of the paintings, watercolours and drawings”, 2 volumes, Thames and Hudson London 1968).

Since in some cases Daumier’s paintings bear similarities with his sculptures, these indications are listed under „Sculpture (after Wasserman)“, meaning that the number refers to the excellent catalogue by J.L. Wasserman from 1969 („Daumier Sculpture, A critical and comparative study“, assisted by Lukach and Beale, foreword by Mongan. Harvard 1969 [exhib. Fogg] Cambridge, USA 1969). This is also a transitional solution until the sculptures will be part of the Daumier Register.


SIZES

Another listing regards the dimensions of a painting. One might imagine that this would hardly be an issue worth discussing. But we noticed some remarkable differences in the measurements. As customary in Europe we measured the paintings height before width. In some exhibition catalogues it is done width before height.

Very often, indications in auction catalogues of the 19th century and up to the 2nd World War were not exact. Some auction houses state sizes they received from the owners without having taken their own measurements. Modern catalogues have much improved in quality supplying thus more reliable information.

In exhibition catalogues like Matthiesen (1926), work catalogues like Fuchs (1930) or Klossowski we sometimes find measures of the canvas, other times measures taken with the frame. This results in considerable differences and time-consuming misunderstandings.

In our list of measures we show all the measures we found in the literature for each painting. Each indication lists the size of the painting, the source and year of that particular information. This should enable the reader to get a realistic impression of the dimensions.


CONCLUSION

When pointing at the occasional errors in the traditional and outstanding work catalogues by Fuchs, Klossowski, Maison and others we are well aware of the fact that we too might be adding new mistakes in the Daumier Register. But in contrast to the printed catalogues we have the immense advantage that any error can be corrected at once. Thus, we are looking forward already now to receiving hints and suggestions from users of this work catalogue.

Enjoy the new Daumier Register on oil paintings and please don’t hesitate to contact us with your comments, critiques and questions.


Lilian & Dieter Noack
February 2011

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