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Paul Gavarni, 1804-1866

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 13 January 1804
Place of Birth: Paris
Place of Death: Paris


Paul Hippolyte-Guillaume-Sulpice Chevalier Gavarni was a French lithographer and painter.


Gavarni, like Honoré Daumier, became famous for his satiricial lithographs. However, unlike Daumier he concentrated on elegant genre scenes. His works were notable for their delicacy of line and for their witty captions. In 1833 he founded his own magazine Le Journal des gens du monde, acting as editor, graphic designer and critic. This folded within a year and in 1834 he began working for Philipon's satiricial journal Le Charivari, and then in 1837 for L'Artiste. His works received praise from Honoré de Balzac, Théophile Gautier, Sainte-Beuve and Jules Janin.

Gavarni's lithographs were very influential for Whistler. At West Point in 1854 he drew caricatures based on those of the French lithographer. Whistler's Le Débardeur m0037 was taken from Gavarni's series Les Débardeurs. See also 'Old C'lo' m0180, 'Pour boire' m0189, Ross Winans playing the violin m0194, Man in a turban m0206, Cuisine à Lûtzelbourg m0232, r.: Gambling salon at Baden-Baden; v.: Girl knitting, street scene, cloaked figure m0245, Standing figure of an old woman m0275. Whistler's drawings of his grisette Fumette, made in Paris in the late 1850s (e.g. Seated seamstress with male companion m0288 and r.: Fumette; v.: Dancing clowns m0289) have also been likened to those intimate genre scenes of Gavarni. It has been suggested that Whistler's La Mère Gérard 024 was influenced by Gavarni, perhaps by a work such as 'Le Portugal et le banc de terre neuve' from Les Gens de Paris.

Baudelaire's essay 'Some French Caricaturists' (1857), which discussed Gavarni's influence on his contemporaries, further consolidated Whistler's interest. Whistler's illustrations in the 1860s for popular journals such as Good Words and Once a Week, e.g. Kenneth and Lena Graeme, in 'The Trial Sermon' m0300, can be seen as a logical progression of his early interest in Gavarni.


Armelhault, J., and E. Bocher, L'Oeuvre de Gavarni, Paris, 1873; De Goncourt, E., and J. de Goncourt, Gavarni: L'Homme et l'oeuvre, Paris, 1873; Lemoisne, P.-A., Gavarni: Peintre et lithographe, 2 vols, Paris, 1924; Farwell, B., The Charged Image: French Lithographic Caricature 1816-1848, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 1989; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Melot, Michel, 'Paul (Hippolyte-Guillaume-Sulpice Chevalier) Gavarni', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 8 March 2002).