DORÉ, Paul Gustave (1833–83). A French illustrator, etcher, painter, and sculptor. He was born at Strassburg, Jan. 6, 1833, the son of an engineer. His talent was very precocious. At the age of 12 he drew sketches for lithographs, and in his fifteenth year he was regularly employed as an illustrator by the Journal pour Rire, at the same time exhibiting series of pen sketches in the salons. He had but little education in art, and the demand for his designs was too great to allow him the requisite leisure for technical training. As a caricaturist, he was successful, but he soon turned his attention to the illustration of books. His Rabelais Illustré, which appeared in 1854, established his reputation, and this work was followed by an incredible number of others, equally famous. He was not only popular in France, but in the United States and throughout Europe, especially in England, where there was a Doré cult. He worked with amazing facility and fecundity, acquiring great sums of money through his art. He was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1861 and officer in 1879. He died in Paris, Jan. 23, 1883.
Doré's reputation as an artist is due to his illustrations, in which his weird and fertile imagination and his dramatic sentiment had opportunity for full sway. His drawing, however, is often faulty. He uses landscape with success, especially in order to obtain the weird and gloomy effects in which he excelled. Sometimes, as, e.g., in his last great work, Orlando Furioso (1880), his imagination runs riot, and his work becomes exaggerated and bizarre. His chief masterpieces of engraving, besides the Rabelais, mentioned above, are Don Quixote (1863) and Dante's Inferno (1861). Among the numerous other works which he illustrated were Balzac's Contes drolatiques (1856), Atala (1862), the Bible (1864), for which he furnished only the sketches, and La Fontaine's Fables (1866). He illustrated a number of important works of English literature, among which are Milton's Paradise Lost (1866), Tennyson's Idylls of the King (1867–68), Coleridge's Ancient Mariner (1876), and Poe's Raven (1883).
Doré aspired to be an historical painter and, with his accustomed facility, created many works, mostly of colossal proportions. In these his lack of technical training is particularly conspicuous, especially his faulty drawing and his lack of color sense. The English, however, made much of his painting, and there is still a permanent exhibition of his pictures in London. His first exhibited canvas was the "Battle of the Alma" (1855), and the best of his paintings are "Francesca da Rimini" and the "Neophyte" (1868). His large canvases, "Christ Leaving the Prćtorium" and "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem," attracted much attention. Doré's landscapes and aquarelles are worse than his figure pieces. In them the artist strives after scintillating effects, but shows no real feeling for nature.
As a sculptor, his technical deficiencies are even more evident. His best-known work is the monument to Alexandre Dumas in the Place Malesherbes, Paris. But he was more successful in a colossal vase, exhibited in the Exposition Universelle of 1878, and now in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The vase represents the "Vintage" and is decorated with numerous little figures of geniuses and animals, in which, in a graceful and delightful manner, the artist has expressed his exuberant fantasy.
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. VI (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 188.