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FANTASY & FAITH: The Art of Gustave Doré

At the Dahesh Museum

By Glenn Loney



The Dahesh Museum
601 Fifth Ave.

Closing April 29, 2007

This is, of necessity, a Very Small Show. There are some seven artworks--plus a Bible--on view. The object of the exhibition is to call attention to the fact that Paul Gustave Doré wanted to be accepted & appreciated as a Serious Artist, rather than as merely an Ingenious Illustrator of Very Large Books.

Perhaps the most impressive work on display is his Black Eagle of Prussia, but it is so black that it is hard to see its details under the Museum’s lighting.

Doré’s densely-detailed Massacre of Innocents certainly is Religious, Mythical, & Complicated enough to have met the rigid Standards of Seriousness of the Academy, but he never achieved the recognition he sought.

Nonetheless, the exhibition-texts suggest Doré’s real success was in influencing Hollywood producers & directors, such as Cecil B. DeMille & Walt Disney!

Your scribe has splendid Mint-Condition copies Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Elaine, Enid, and Vivian & Guinevere, the latter two bound in the same volume--all imaginatively illustrated Doré. Although Elaine was published in 1867, the gift-inscription is dated 1866!

[What you find when you are looking for forgotten old books! On the same high & deep bookshelf, I found L’Ordre français trouvé dans la Natur--with remarkable architectural plates and a very old English tome, with many portraits of famous men and engravings of traditional & historical events & celebrations such as the burning of the Wicker Man! Neither of these looked as if they had ever been opened!

[And then there was George Fox’s Book of Martyrs and Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews! These were bought for a pittance fifty years ago in Winchester Cathedral bookshop. The Canon was getting rid of old Chapter Library tomes no one ever read…]