Honoré Daumier

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Honoré Daumier
Two Lawyers Conversing
ca. 1862
Black chalk, lithographic crayon, watercolor and opaque watercolor with graphite.
8 1/4 x 10 5/8 inches (209 x 270 mm)
Thaw Collection.

The early 1860s were a particularly challenging time for the middle-aged Daumier. He was fired from Le Charivari in March 1860 and struggled financially for years, although he finally had time to devote to painting and drawing. Pictorial sheets such as the present one incorporate his skills as a satirist and, with the addition of watercolor, add a refined touch to the robust draftsmanship well-known from his lithographs. The sale of these drawings to collectors and connoisseurs undoubtedly afforded some relief to the artist.
At right, a proper, reserved counselor listens as his colleague, hat doffed and reclining, offers commentary. Daumier adapted an earlier study of a head, which he reused several times, for the pose and physiognomy of the heavyset lawyer; his gaunt companion is of a type well-established in the artist's oeuvre. Colta Ives connected the sheet, with its comic odd couple, to Daumier's farcical figures derived from Molière in the painting Scapin and Silvestre, ca. 1863-65 (Louvre, Paris). Michael Pantazzi further noted the recurrence of the loquacious lawyer in two versions of a later drawing depicting a lawyer offering remarks to a colleague, one a sheet in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, another in a private collection. The composition is also generally related to several works depicting confidences between pairs and sheets documenting courtroom behavior that the artist explored over the years.
A date of ca. 1862 is supported by a sketch of the subject in a carnet inscribed with that date in the Louvre. The booklet comprises ten sheets of heavy paper bound by string, of which four sheets bear drawings by Daumier. Folio 3 of the carnet contains eight abbreviated studies in graphite for different compositions, including the present one. According to Edouard Papet, these sketches may have functioned as a record of the artist's completed works, a sort of liber veritatis, or as aides-mémoire. It is also possible that Daumier intended the quickly delineated, incisive vignettes to replicate the works he intended for the market. That this drawing was replicated in the carnet suggests both its independence as a finished work and its context within a larger group created by the artist during this productive period.
This sheet was included in a major show of Daumier's paintings, drawings, and watercolors organized by his friends at Durand-Ruel Galleries in 1878. He had ceased working for Le Charivari about 1875 and, within a few years, had nearly gone blind. In this last grand gesture by his supporters, 94 paintings and 139 works on paper were displayed. The show, unfortunately, was a financial failure, and Daumier died in relative obscurity the following year.


Signed in pen and black ink at lower right, "h. Daumier".
Watermark: "HALLINES" with shield above, fragment.

F. Collet, Paris, by 1878; thence by descent; sale, Palais Galliéra, Paris, 27 March 1973, lot 17, repr.; at which acquired by Eugene V. (1927-2018) and Clare E. (1924-2017) Thaw, New York and Santa Fe.
Associated names: 

Claretie, Jules, 1840-1913, former owner.
Thaw, Eugene Victor, former owner.
Thaw, Clare, former owner.


The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY, "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection", 2017. Exh. cat., no. 73, repr.
Stampfle, Felice, and Cara D. Denison. Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene V. Thaw. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1975, no. 88, repr. (also in Thaw III, no. 74)
Denison, Cara D. The Thaw Collection : Master Drawings and New Acquisitions. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1994, no. 74, repr.
Denison, Cara D. et al. From Mantegna to Picasso : Drawings from the Thaw Collection at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. London : Royal Academy of Arts ; New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1996, no. 68, repr. in color.
From Leonardo to Pollock: Master drawings from the Morgan Library. New York: Morgan Library, 2006, cat. no. 88, p. 184-185.
100 Master drawings from the Morgan Library & Museum. München : Hirmer, 2008, no. 85, repr. [Jennifer Tonkovich]
Select bibliography: New York 1975-76, no. 88, repr; Frankfurt and New York 1992-93, no. 89, repr.; Ottawa and elsewhere 1999-2000, no. 212, repr.

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