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Gustave Dore was a French painter, sculptor, printmaker, and illustrator. He was best known for his illustrations of The Bible, Dante’s Inferno, and Don Quixote, the latter which defined the protagonists’ appearances until today.
Gustave Dore was born in January 1832, in Strasburg, France. Dore was a prodigy artist; at age five, he was already executing drawings with a maturity far beyond his age. Dore began his career at age 15, working for the French paper Le Journal pour Rire as a caricaturist. At this time, wood engraving was his primary method and was a recurrent illustration technique throughout his career.
In the early 1850s, Dore made several text comics, such as Les Travaux d’Hercule, Trois artistes incompris et mécontents, Les Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrement and L’Histoire de la Sainte Russie. These kinds of works would help establish Dore as an illustrator and show his ability to tell a story through imagery and composition. Thus, Dore was awarded several commissions to illustrate scenes from books by distinguished authors such as Rabelais, Balzac, Cervantes, John Milton, and Dante.
In 1853, Dore received a commission to illustrate the works of Lord Byron, following additional work from British publishers, among others, a new illustrated Bible. Three years later, he would produce a series of 12 illustrations of the Legend of The Wandering Jew, which propagated and reinforced long-standing antisemitic views of the time.
In 1860, he illustrated a French edition of Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. This work became so famous that Dore’s vision on how the two characters look would be a reference for years to come, in mediums beyond the book illustration, like cinema and theatre. In the following year, Dore produced pictures for Dante’s Inferno comprised of several folios, which is often considered his masterpiece. These illustrations were followed by Rudolf Raspe’s Baron Munchausen, Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales.
In 1865, the artist completed The Dore Bible, comprised of the outstanding number of 230 folios. Said folios would become the most famous series of illustration prints ever made. Mark Twain even mentioned said publication in Tom Sawyer. His illustrations for the Bible were such a success that rendered him a major exhibition in London. This very exhibition led to the constitution of the Dore Gallery in London.
Although being widely known and highly respected, Dore longed for recognition in the fine arts medium. Now, the paintings, once rejected by the French, was promptly lauded by the British. Soon, the artist turned to landscape painting in watercolor and sculpture.
Gustave Dore was a highly productive artist, creating over ten thousand prints throughout his career. Scholars would even state that he basically worked himself to death while working for illustrations for an Edition of Shakesperean plays.