Musée d'Orsay: Gustave Doré Christmas Eve

Gustave Doré
Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve
Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
Christmas Eve
Not dated
Watercolour and gouache highlights, on pencil underdrawing.
H. 75; W. 51.5cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR

La nuit de Noël [Christmas Eve]

Gustave Doré started his career at the age of 15 as a caricaturist for the magazine Journal pour rire. He then became widely known as an illustrator through his engraved plates, particularly those he produced in 1866 for the Bible. Through his innumerable drawings, he created a vast repertoire of images revealing a great sense of narrative, in which he blends realistic detail and fantastic scenes. Most of Doré's watercolours are landscapes, painted from life, simple working tools for more elaborate works.

Christmas Eve, on the other hand, is a very accomplished work in a large format. In it, Doré illustrates the tradition of Christmas as a celebration for children. Starting with a realistic view of a town from the rooftops – reminiscent of the work he did in 1872 with the writer Blanchard Jerrold, London, a pilgrimage – he produces a magical scene. The figure of an angel slipping toys down a chimney is the main subject of the scene. The aura of sentimental poetry in this watercolour is echoed in his many illustrations for children's stories.

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