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Creator / Gustave Doré

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"One of the most acclaimed and successful artists of the nineteenth century was also one of the inventors of comic books, and arguably the originator of much of the vocabulary of the graphic narrative. That was Gustave Doré."
Doug Harvey, "Sandow Birk's Fast-Food Inferno"
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Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré (6 January 1832 – 23 January 1883) was a French graphical artist, printmaker, sculptor and illustrator, though he is most famous for the last profession. He used wood engraving to illustrate scenes from various iconic pieces of world literature, such as the poems of Lord Byron, Gargantua and Pantagruel, The Bible, The Divine Comedy, The Tempest, the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, Don Quixote, Paradise Lost, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Idylls of the King, Orlando Furioso and The Raven. Many of these drawings have become the definitive visualizations of this classic stories and are about as iconic as the tales themselves.

Doré also made drawings of realistic events, such as the fatal accident on the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865[1] and realistic pictures of the poor neighborhoods of London in London: A Pilgrimage, but he was at his best when he could illustrate Fantasy stories and let his imagination run wild. His work has influenced countless artists, from Walt Disney to Terry Gilliam. Many stories in a fairy tale setting take their inspiration from Doré's illustrations for Charles Perrault's fairy tales.

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Doré's work provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Dore depicts Mary Magdalene's repentance by showing her pouring her heart out to a dismembered skull.
  • The Armies of Heaven: The angels under Christ in The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism are armed with swords and shields as they chase the defeated gods into an obscure abyss.
  • As the Good Book Says...: He illustrated the Bible and Dante's Divine Comedy in which Dante visits Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and meets various biblical figures.
  • Autocannibalism: The illustration of Plutus from Inferno shows the god of greed biting his own hands in his madness.
  • Body of Bodies: His Inferno illustration of the Second Circle shows the bodies of the lustful stuck together, flying through the air in one giant, twisting mass like a worm of the sky.
  • Bored with Insanity: Dore's illustration of Inferno Canto 34 shows the Devil trapped at the bottom of Hell enduring the worst pain imaginable for the nine thousandth year with his his head leaning on one hand and his face filled with nothing more than apathy.
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  • Born in the Wrong Century: Doré didn't make much illustrations about his own time period, preferring to draw stories taking place in the romantic/mythological past.
  • Break the Haughty: Mighty Nimrod bears a king's crown and warrior's horn to remind him and the audience of his great ambitions, but the chain tying him to the bottom of Hell shows how far down to Earth the once-great hunter has been brought.
  • Broken Bird: The angel in The Enigma is in agony over the death around the battlefield and leans on the mighty sphinx for support.
  • Chiaroscuro: Gustave Dore's wood-carved illustrations often have one intense source of light standing in contrast to a deeply dark environment, all without any color. Take his illustration of Buonconte's death in the Purgatorio, where a bright flash of lightning and a white angel stand in contrast to a stormy night, a black ocean, and a demon covered entirely in shadow.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Dore's Francesa and Paolo decide to share their adulterous kiss in front of the one pair of curtains in creation that have Francesca's husband behind them, allowing him to catch them in the middle of the affair and allow death to do them part.
  • Death of a Child: Massacre of the Innocents gratuitously depicts soldiers ripping babies from their mothers and skewering them with swords.
  • Death of the Old Gods: The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism shows Zeus and the pagan gods falling into obscurity to be replaced by Jesus and His cross.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: He usually worked in black-and-white.
  • Dramatic Wind: Dore's illustration of Dante's swoon has his mentor Virgil nearly hidden by his cloak blowing through the hellish winds, translating Virgil's silence in that episode into visual obscurity.
  • Dramatic Thunder: What are the odds that just as Cain slays Abel, a lightning bolt would strike past? Pretty low, but nonetheless, Dore uses the bolt in the background to make God's disapproval visible.
  • Energy Beings: Several of Dore's works (like ''the Creation of Eve0 portray God as a body of light to demonstrate His incorporeality and transcendence.
  • Fairy Tales: Doré is mostly associated with his illustrations of fairy tales, even though he only did one of those.
  • Fantasy: He drew fantastic elements such as angels, monsters, giants, talking animals, gods and other creatures in a realistic but believable style.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: The Furies in Inferno are given featherless bat-wings by Dore that aren't described in the poem itself. A few pages later, Dore illustrates an angel with bright, fluffy bird-wings to let you know he's good and the Furies are demonic.
  • Go Through Me: The spotlight in Dore's Massacre of the Innocents is on a mother who is shielding her two infant children from three blood-thirsty soldiers by putting her body and her life between them. There's no mention of such a sacrifice in the Bible, but the depiction of motherly love only makes Herod's massacre all the more monstrous.
  • Götterdämmerung: Christ leads an army of armed angels to overthrow the pagan pantheons in The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism.
  • The Grim Reaper: Dore only illustrates one of the Four Horseman: Death. Dore shows includes the scythe and the pale horse mentioned in Revelation, but includes mysterious flowing robes, emaciated skin, and winged demons following him throughout the sky.
  • Harping on About Harpies: Harpies in the Inferno illustrations aren't Bird People, but are almost entirely bird-like, the only exception being their heads are that of human women.
  • Hell: Together with Hieronymus Bosch perhaps the best illustrator of Hell, in The Divine Comedy.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Dore took a brief metaphor about levaithans in Isaiah 27 and created an illustration of an angry Grandpa God chasing a mile-long sea serpent into the depths of the sea at sword-point.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: Count Ugolino is trapped in a stone room with barely any light to see his surviving sons starve to death in his arms and nowhere to escape the dead ones' rotting corpses.
  • Losing Your Head: Dore did two illustrations of Bertran de Born, a schismatic damned to repeated decapitation for eternity. In one image, Bertran stands on the edge of a boulder and holds out his head to talk to a rare visitor, while another image shows Bertran sadly holding his head on his lap as he sits down.
  • The Lost Woods: Doré was a master in drawing dark, mysterious woods, as seen in his illustrations of the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Orlando Furioso, Idylls of the King and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Dore makes nearly all the souls in his illustrations of Inferno and Purgatorio fully nude. While most of them are too busy writhing against rocks and walls to show naughty bits, a few of the nude damned/penitents (like in this one) have their masculinity in view, even if not in incredible detail.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The illustration of the Seventh Circle of Hell puts the centaurs and the damned at the forefront while the action of the protagonists is relegated to the distant background, where Virgil summons the centaurs to come guide the duo through the river of blood.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: He could drew pretty scary stuff. See here: [2] The image, for those who can't see it is the ogre from "Hop-o'-My-Thumb" ready to slash the throats of his daughters, his eyes bulging out of his sockets like olives.
  • Plant Person: Even though suicides in Inferno were described as being fully Transflormed into trees, Dore illustrates them as persons who have had their limbs turned into branches and their skin transformed into bark. All of the suicide-trees appear contorted, pained, and miserable at their fate.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Dante holds his hand to his forehead in one illustration to show the audience that he's just had a vision.
  • Rays from Heaven: A common trope in his art.
  • Scenery Porn: His work is a marvel to look at. Not only the characters and imaginary beings, but even the backgrounds evoke a rich and believable atmosphere.
  • Spider Limbs: The illustration of the Proud shows Arachne not as a normal-sized spider, but as a nude human woman with six spider-legs below her arms. They hold her up as she falls to the ground in humiliation.
  • War Is Hell: In order to visualize the destructiveness of battle, The Enigma portrays a muted wasteland occupied by broken weapons, mutilated corpses, and an angel heartbroken by the war.

Gustave Doré in popular culture:


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