Ratapoil by Daumier

Ratapoil by Daumier
Ratapoil by Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808 – 1879) is best known for his role as a painter, one of the greatest representatives of the realist style in France with masterpieces like the watercolor The Third Class Car. However, he also worked as a sculptor, and perhaps due to his lesser education, his scant academic knowledge in this artistic discipline and, of course, his lack of adherence to it, it can be affirmed that his sculptural works advanced this art. Something similar to what another somewhat later painter did, Edgard Degas, whose sculptures are also different from those of other contemporaries much more educated and focused on that artistic discipline.

Daumier's Ratapoil

Daumier's Ratpoil

As an example it serves to contemplate this bronze titled Ratapoil. His appearance is closely linked to another of the artistic aspects that Daumier developed, since he was not only a painter and sculptor, but also a famous illustrator and caricaturist in the press, where he ironically drew many politicians of his time. In fact, this sculpture would be like a caricature in three dimensions. And it is one of the few that he finally cast in bronze, since the vast majority of his works were left behind after modeling in fired clay that he later colored.

The truth is that this Ratapoil, despite the melting, retains the appearance of modeling in its appearance.And it is that with this he intended his figures to be tremendously effective. That is, to convey that somewhat parodic and critical message of each of the characters that she models. And even though it was based on contemporary men, many of them famous and recognizable by the general public, finally with the excuse of being a caricature it ends up transforming them into a stereotype in which to portray the vices of their time.

And he mainly uses them to attack the propaganda current of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, because Daumier was always a convinced republican. Thus he credits his work as a political illustrator in French newspapers. And this Ratapoil would go in that line, since it would represent the followers of that prince-president who threatened to establish a new imperial regime based on the army. Something that would finally happen with the proclamation of Napoleon III.

Specifically, he made this work between 1850 and 1851. In it we see some very powerful volumes and a great imbalance. All based on a very exaggerated arched shape, to which the wrinkled folds of the dress contribute. While his face poses it with a certain touch of evil, almost satanic, in which the large mustache that supporters of Bonapartism wore is striking.

The aesthetic result could be said not to be from his time, which is close to expressionist forms that will take several decades to reach the European art scene. For all these reasons, this work treasured by the collection of the Orsay Museum ofParis is a small gem within the sculpture of the mid-19th century, where, by the way, the sculpture The Great Arabesque of Degas, cited above, is also exhibited.

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