Six Magnificent Books Illustrated by Gustave Doré
The French artist left an indelible mark on the Western imagination by illustrating some of history’s most important books.
The importance of Gustave Doré (1832-1883) lies not only in the art he produced during his lifetime (though it provides undoubted testimony to his mastery). An engraver, draftsman, illustrator, watercolor artist, painter and sculptor, Doré created an aesthetic that even today illustrates the collective imagination of some of the most important books ever produced.
Before converting himself into one of the most famous illustrators in history, Doré was passionate about mountaineering and a lover of Anglo-American culture. He began by drawing cartoons for the French press, and, born in Strasbourg, he never married, and lived with his mother for most of his eccentric life.
But the profound importance of Doré’s illustrations lies in their monumental dramatic force. There’s an epic sense that they’re the product of a sensitivity which allowed the artist to imagine and capture literary scenes filled with an unexpectedly original phantasmagoria.
Although in life he was excluded from the higher echelons of the art world, Gustave Doré was, paradoxically, a promoter of Western art and, specifically, of the European visual culture of the 19th-century. The power of French illustration has influenced expression in painting, cinema and even in graphic novels. Doré renovated the very genre of storytelling through the images he produced. The way we imagine, for example, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Lucifer, or the streets of London during the Victorian era, are today due in large part to Doré’s invaluable graphic work, his readings and his privileged imagination.
Below are six books illustrated by the great Gustave Doré.
In 1866, Doré made 241 engravings to illustrate a deluxe edition of the Bible. This became known as La Grande Bible de Tours, a volume that enjoyed great fame and popularity in France. It’s influence on the public imagination is immeasurable.
John Milton’s Paradise Lost
An extended poem, Paradise Lost is one of the most important writings in 18th-century England. Narrating the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, it was illustrated by Doré with 50 beautiful engravings whose representations of the devil, Paradise, and the inhabitants therein, still dominate the Western imagination.
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri
To this day – 150 years after Doré’s vision of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy – our way of imagining its characters and mystical cartography are still largely determined by the choices Doré made.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The slim, eccentric figure of the knight of La Mancha (and that of his corpulent squire) as we’ve imagined them for more than a century, is largely the creation of Doré who made a total of 222 illustrations to illustrate Cervantes’ classic work.
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
The Tempest was the last dramatic piece written by William Shakespeare. The landscapes and characters have attracted the attention of artists from all disciplines since their creation in 1610. Doré illustrated the legendary work in 1860.
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
One of the most emblematic works by the American, Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, was interpreted by Gustave Doré in 1883. A unique aesthetic exercise, it’s full of dark melancholy and mystery and was the final work of the French illustrator. He would die shortly after finishing the job, at the age of 51.
Pictorial spiritism (a woman's drawings guided by a spirit)
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Astounding fairytale illustrations from Japan
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