The Lawyer

Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Medium Watercolour and gouache, over an underdrawing in black chalk

Dimension 17.1 x 13.1 cm (6³/₄ x 5¹/₈ inches)

In the 1830s Honoré Daumier became a regular visitor to the Palais de Justice in Paris, and he portrayed scenes from the law courts in around two hundred lithographs, drawings, watercolours and paintings over the next thirty years. As Colta Ives has noted, ‘Lawcourts, which were the centers of great influence and authority in nineteenth-century France, aroused the attention of Daumier to an exceptional degree. In fact, no other artist has ever been quite so fascinated by the legal profession or has proclaimed its endemic weaknesses so vividly…His depictions of lawyers and court drama grew stronger in design and larger in meaning as he progressed from detailing specific personages and events to presenting simpler, generalized images of one or two figures symbolic of the profession and its practices…the fame of his prints was such that a market existed for drawings and watercolors which the artist produced for collectors, mainly during the 1860s…Daumier’s particular genius is evident in the stunning and disciplined clarity of his images. The artist never became mired in detail or narratives that required explanation, but instead concentrated on defining character through incisive description.’

The first owner of the present sheet was the French writer and art critic Roger Marx (1859-1913), one of the earliest collectors of Daumier’s drawings. As his son, the art historian Claude Roger-Marx, later recalled of his father’s collection of drawings by Daumier: ‘From my early childhood, I have lived in daily intimacy with Daumier’s exciting world. At a time when he was still considered only a “humourist”, my father was able to acquire two cardboard boxes of drawings and sketches that had miraculously escaped destruction. These first thoughts, like the painted studies, were so disregarded at the time that it is said that almost all of them were thrown away by his widow in the trash. Between Daumier and myself all distances were removed. I tried to forget everything that others had written about him in order to find myself free of all topicality, served by an inexhaustible imagination, an extraordinary visual memory, one to one with his ardour, his sadness too…’

Following his death in December 1913, Roger Marx’s collection was dispersed in five auctions held the following year. The present sheet was included in one of these sales, in May 1914, when it was acquired by the collector and pioneering Islamic art dealer Dikran G. Kelekian (1868-1951). Of Armenian descent, Kelekian had established his successful business in antiquities in Constantinople in 1892, and later opened galleries in Cairo, Paris, New York and London. Sometime in the 1910s Kelekian began collecting works by modern French artists, especially of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist schools, and by 1920 had amassed an impressive collection that included works by Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, André Derain, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edouard Vuillard.

Medium: Watercolour and gouache, over an underdrawing in black chalk

Signature: Inscribed H Daumier / Hier(?) biseau anglais - / [?] on the verso.

Dimension: 17.1 x 13.1 cm (6³/₄ x 5¹/₈ inches)

Provenance: Roger Marx, Paris
His posthumous sale, Paris, Galerie Manzi, Joyant, 11-12 May 1914, lot 119 (L’Avocat. En robe, tête découverte, il pérore dans le feu de la plaidoirie. Fond blanc, noir gris et bleu. Dessin rehaussé. Haut., 16 cent.; larg., 12 cent.)
Dikran Garabed Kelekian, Paris and New York
Private collection, New York
Anonymous sale, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 13 May 1953, lot 16
Fine Arts Associates, New York
Private collection, America, in 1967
Grace Borgenicht, New York
Anonymous sale, Paris, Artcurial, 28 March 2012, lot 225
Gérard Lhéritier (Aristophil), Nice.

Literature: Erich Klossowski, Honoré Daumier, Munich, 1923, p.102, no.177Q; K. E. Maison, Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Vol.II, London, 1967, p.209, no.630, illustrated pl.237. 

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Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Old Master, 19th Century and Modern Drawings, Watercolours and Oil Sketches

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