Gustave Doré
French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor



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Gustave Doré
French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Date of Birth

January 06, 1832

Place of Birth

Strasbourg, France

Date of Death

January 23, 1883

Place of Death

Paris, France

More about Gustave Doré

tlyons's picture


Gustave Doré classed up the classics, brought the Bible to life and changed how people pictured the afterlife. Yeah, whatever, sellout.

Dante. Milton. Byron. Cervantes. They're all literary giants, yes, but there's one other thing they all have in common: extravagant and definitive editions of their work published with etched illustrations by Gustave Doré. There was no contract too daunting, no subject too great for our Gus to put knife to wood for the purpose of depicting. Even God Himself had an edition of his most popular Book illuminated with illustrations by Doré, and the resulting Grande Bible de Tours was so immensely popular that critics insisted the artist could “with the smallest fragment, the faintest pieces of evidence...[reconstruct]...collapsed temples fallen to dust, not through thankless archaic work, but through a powerful and rapid vision.” People liked him, is what we're saying.

Known primarily in his time as a prolific illustrator and printmaker, Gustave Doré began his career at the age of fifteen as a caricaturist for the French paper Le Journal pour rire, producing work which was presumably just as hilarious as one would expect from a teenaged political cartoonist obsessed with religious iconography. That early work, along with the several volumes of lithographs he put out shortly afterward, got him enough good press that he was able to score some lucrative illustration jobs, and it wasn't long before the sweet, sweet Rabelais and Balzac commissions started rolling in.

Doré remained extremely prolific throughout his life—he produced 241 illustrations for the Bible alone—and by his mid-40s he'd been made both a Chevalier and an Officier of the Legion of Honor (like being made a knight, but French-er). Popular as he was in his native France, he was positively beloved in London, where the Doré Gallery was established in 1861—despite the fact that the artist himself neither lived there for any length of time nor spoke any English. After signing a five-year contract with the English publisher Grant & Co. Doré was compelled to spend three months a year in London, which culminated in London: A Pilgrimage, his illustrated travelogue of the city. (Despite great commercial success, a lot of the higher-ups in the city didn't like how much his pictures seemed to focus on images of squalor and poverty in London. What the actual squalid poor people thought about the book is less clear, as nobody seems to have bothered to ask them.)

Perhaps Doré's most lasting legacy came about because of his illustrations for Dante's Inferno, in which he provided a picture of hell so distinct and vivid that some critics felt he must have received a divine vision. Initially unable to find a backer for such an ambitious project, Doré had to fund the first volume (the Inferno) himself; it was so successful that publisher Hachette financed and put out the subsequent two parts in a single volume immediately, and his illustrations were eventually published in nearly 200 different editions accompanied by translations into numerous languages. Which just goes to show you that the one thing people fear more than hell is that they might miss out on something cool.

In Doré's time there was considerable debate over whether his work should be considered art or simply illustration. He was self-taught and his work isn't easily classified as part of any particular movement, so he was often dismissed as talented but ultimately without merit, and while he produced numerous paintings and sculptures in addition to his etchings (there's evidence that he thought of himself primarily as a painter and saw printmaking as a lucrative side-line) he didn't receive nearly as much attention for them, leading to criticism that he was essentially a failed artist who sold out and went corporate. But hey, this is an art website, and since Doré's on here and we're all pretty cool with the guy it looks like we've settled that debate for good and all. You're welcome, Gustave.


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Gustave Doré

Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré (/dɔːˈr/; French: [ɡys.tav dɔ.ʁe]; 6 January 1832 – 23 January 1883) was a French artist, printmaker, illustrator, comics artist, caricaturist, and sculptor who worked primarily with wood-engraving.


Doré was born in Strasbourg on 6 January 1832. By age 5 he was a prodigy artist, creating drawings that were mature beyond his years. Seven years later, he began carving in stone. At the age of 15, Doré began his career working as a caricaturist for the French paper Le journal pour rire. Wood-engraving was his primary method at this time. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, he made several text comics, like Les Travaux d'Hercule (1847), Trois artistes incompris et mécontents (1851), Les Dés-agréments d'un voyage d'agrément (1851) and L'Histoire de la Sainte Russie (1854). Doré subsequently went on to win commissions to depict scenes from books by Cervantes, Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, and Dante. He also illustrated "Gargantua et Pantagruel" in 1854.

In 1853 Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated Bible. In 1856 he produced 12 folio-size illustrations of The Legend of The Wandering Jew, which propagated longstanding antisemitic views of the time, for a short poem which Pierre-Jean de Béranger had derived from a novel of Eugène Sue of 1845.

In the 1860s he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters. Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.

Doré's illustrations for the Bible (1866) were a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Bond Street, London. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had obtained the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson (published in three volumes from 1808 to 1810). Doré signed a five-year contract with the publishers Grant & Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year, and he received the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the project. Doré was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world-renowned, but his woodcuts and engravings, like those he did for Jerrold, are where he excelled as an artist with an individual vision.

The completed book London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 wood-engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial and popular success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics. Some of these critics were concerned by the fact that Doré appeared to focus on the poverty that existed in parts of London. Doré was accused by The Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying". The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down". The book was a financial success, however, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers.

Doré's later work included illustrations for new editions of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. Doré's work also appeared in the weekly newspaper The Illustrated London News.

Doré never married and, following the death of his father in 1849, he continued to live with his mother, illustrating books until his death in Paris following a short illness. The city's Père Lachaise Cemetery contains his grave. At the time of his death in 1883, he was working on illustrations for an edition of Shakespeare's plays. The government of France made him a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1861.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Gustave Doré.