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Gustave Dore and l'annee terrible et la semaine sanglante.

The Franco-Prussian War--a significant chapter in the personal and professional life of artist Paul Gustave Dore--produces a tragic and terrible year (and one horribly bloody week) in France's history, as Napoleon III's troops are crushed by Otto von Bismarck's vastly superior forces and Paris is laid under siege with the threat of yet another revolution in the air.

Between July 1870 and March 1871, France suffered a crushing defeat in its war with Prussia, the Second Empire of Napoleon III vanished almost overnight, and Paris endured a brief, but bloody civil conflict known as the Commune. This period, christened l'annie terrible (the terrible year) by Victor Hugo, also was a significant chapter in the personal and professional life of Paul Gustave Dore. As a native of Strasbourg. a city routed and besieged by the Prussian army early in the war, Dore had particularly strong feelings about the events unfolding around him, which he expressed in numerous drawings, prints, and paintings.

Dore has been described as both a realist and a visionary--his bleak drawings of the poor in Victorian London or his lively scenes of contemporary Parisian life, for example, make a stark contrast to the hallucinatory illustrations he made for Dante's "Inferno" or Rabelais' "Gargantua." This thematic and stylistic duality is evident as well in his images related to the Franco-Prussian War. which range from documentary sketches and paintings of the siege and bombardment of Paris to rousing battle fantasies and grim allegories of the war and its aftermath. In his major paintings of the era--"The Defense of Paris." "The Black Eagle of Prussia." and "The Enigma"--the symbolic and the documentary appear side by side. In these pictures, on battlefields still charged with the possibility of victory and on those already littered with the proof of defeat, the closely observed uniforms, bayonets, broken cannons, and dead soldiers coexist with an allegorical figure that, for Dore. literally embodied the valor, strength and. ultimately, the Gustave Dore misery of the country and its people during the tumultuous year of war and siege.

In July 1870, Napoleon III received the alarming news that Leopold Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Prussia, had been selected to ascend the Spanish throne. Napoleon demanded that the Hohenzollern candidate be withdrawn, fearing not only a Spanish-Prussian alliance but, more significantly, the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's ultimate goal--the unification of Germany. When negotiations broke down, Napoleon III declared war on Prussia. This declaration, on July 19, 1870, was the beginning of what would prove to be the swift end of an era. Criticized at home and abroad for its decadence and ostentation, the Second Empire had fallen by early September of 1870 and the Third Republic of France was born.

At first, France was confident of victory over Prussia emboldened by its history of military triumphs, particularly those associated with the current Emperor's uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte. Emile Zola limned this attitude in a passage from his epic retrospective novel of the Franco-Prussian War, The Debacle (1892). In it, an idealistic soldier immersed in his grandfather's tales of the Grande Armee, envisions past glories informing the war that has just begun: "Whatever the battle, the flags floated with the same swirl of glory on the evening air and the same cries of Vive Napoleon!' re-echoed as the camp fires were lit on conquered positions, everywhere France was at home as a conqueror and carried her invincible eagles from end to end of Europe. She had only to plant her foot on a foreign realm and the defeated peoples were swallowed up in the Earth."

Dore seemed less assured than Zola's fictional soldier. In Blanche Roosevelt's flattering biography of Dore, he is described as "an ardent patriot" by one of his close friends. Dore's patriotism, however, was not necessarily synonymous with political support for Emperor Napoleon HI, who was widely considered to be the war's instigator. Although he was the grandson of a Napoleonic officer killed at Waterloo, Dore apparently considered himself a legitimist, believing that the throne of France should be restored to the Bourbon fine.

His opinions of the Emperor and his regime notwithstanding, Dore certainly was inspired by the French troops on the eve of battle with Prussia. His sketch dating from August 1870 called "The German Rhine," was described in one notice as a "patriotic contribution by M. Dore to the war-like enthusiasm of the day ... one calculated to stir a Frenchman's blood, and to excite the meditation and poetic feeling of M. Dore to its highest flight." Another writer suggested that the subject of this drawing was the idea of the Emperor himself, who was anxious that the peculiar genius of the painter should employ itself in producing some characteristic memorial of the reign. When the fatal war against Prussia was declared, Dore was commissioned to paint a grand picture of the crossing of the Rhine by the resistless legions of France. Supposedly, the idea was to introduce upon the canvas a spectral host of the dead soldiers of France who did cross the Rhine, watching in pride over the prowess of their descendants.

Zola's fictional soldier in The Debacle could have referred to this image to express his belief that France's current path to victory was paved with, and ensured by, the glory of French victories past. Dore himself was inspired by Alfred de Musset's patriotic and defiant poem of 1841, "The German Rhine," which proclaimed confidently "where the father crossed, the child will also cross."

Another picture from 1870, "The Marseillaise," offered a similar exhortation to victory in the shape of a robed female figure, her mouth open in a war cry, advancing across a field accompanied by an enthusiastic regiment. For this composition, Dore clearly relied on the stirring prototypes of Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" (1830) and Francois Rude's "The Marseillaise: The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792" (1833-36). Like Rude's "Genius of Liberty," Dore's figure in "The Marseillaise" holds a sword aloft in one hand, pointing the way for the crowd of ragged soldiers around her, the standard in her other hand billowing behind her in place of wings. She also is a sister to Delacroix's robust woman of the people, marching amid the ranks of fighters--among which, like Delacroix, Dore included a young, armed boy--and seeming at once to belong in this world and in the realm of allegory.

Dore made a number of drawings that were variations on "The Marseillaise" theme, and apparently planned one for each couplet of the famous song first adopted by the Convention as the French national anthem in 1792. The stirring revolutionary song, composed in Dore's hometown of Strasbourg by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, inextricably was linked with republican ideals. When those ideals were threatening to the French ruler, as they were during the Second Empire of Napoleon III, the song was banned. As Roosevelt points out, "It should be remembered that when [Dore] painted this great picture, the strains of Rouget de Lisle's inspired song were not often heard on the Parisian ramparts." However, by late August 1870, the censored song was, in fact, heard more and more frequently in public, as the current conflict with Prussia began to conjure memories of the French Revolution and its aftermath. Although it still was officially seditious, the song was even performed on stage by several popular actresses and singers of the day.

Indeed, Dore may have been inspired to compose his "Marseillaise" and "Le Chant du Depart"--a similar image based on another popular song of the French Revolution--to capitalize on the correlation between the nationalistic fervor that marked the early days of the Franco-Prussian War and the Revolution of 1789. For the publishing house of Goupil & Cie, the war and the country's patriotic mood provided a wonderful sales opportunity. They began marketing prints made after paintings that depicted enthusiastic citizens volunteering to defend the First Republic in 1792, imagery that clearly resonated with a population now eager to defend what, by September 1870. already was the young Third Republic. It is not surprising, then, that among the lithographs listed in Goupil's October 1870 catalogue was Dore's "Marseillaise" and its pendant, "The German Rhine." "Chant du Depart" also was available as part of their popular Photographic Gallery series. Because they appeared as prints so quickly, it is probable that Dore made his original monochromatic works with this medium in mind, aware of their appeal to a mass market.

Like Delacroix and Rude before him, Dore relied upon a number of sources to create a composite, yet immediately recognizable figure. Roosevelt described her as a "Goddess of Victory," and Dore frequently did supply his figure with powerful, feathered wings, clearly identifying her as a descendent of Nike, the ancient Greek personification of Victory. In 1863, the French archeologist Charles Champoiseau unearthed on the Greek island of Samothrace the most famous classical statue of a Nike, known now as the "Winged Victory of Samothrace." Placed in the hall of classical statuary in the Louvre in 1867, her forceful stride, clinging drapery, and dynamic wings dramatically affected the public's conception of the image of victory, and surely provided Dore with a model for his own battlefield goddess.

Dore's "Angel of War," as another writer interpreted her, also bears a striking resemblance to the plentiful Christian angels that soar through the artist's biblical imagery in works like "The Ascension." This similarity has a precise iconographical basis. In the early years of Christianity, artists co-opted the image of the winged Roman goddess Victoria (herself an assimilated version of the Greek Nike), and converted her into a hovering angel to represent the triumph of Christianity over paganism. Dore certainly recognized the winged figure's adaptability, even recapitulating--in reverse--its original metamorphosis within his own work. In another version he made of "The Marseillaise" theme, the goddess rises in the air on mighty wings above an army, urging them on to victory with a sword and lit torch in her outstretched arms. Several years later, for the illustration "The Road to Jerusalem" in the historian Joseph-Francois Michaud's History of the Crusades (originally published 181217), Dore recycled this composition, transforming the French soldiers into Crusaders, and the goddess into a floating Christian angel who still holds a sword, but whose torch has been replaced by a cross-topped banner.

While the classical and religious connotations of the female figure presiding over Dore's war imagery contributed to her contextual legibility, they remained merely constituent elements of a much broader, more complicated symbolic order. Her other accoutrements, which appear together in various combinations in different pictures--a crown of laurels, wings, torch, sword and, most important, the distinctive Phrygian cap or bonnet-have a long history in French visual culture, high and low. They identify her as an "angel of the Republic," an entity that, after relatively brief but momentous tours of duty in 1792, 1830, and 1848, was resurrected again at the fall of the Second Empire.

The personification of the French Republic dates from 1792, when the government of the Convention decreed that France's state seal include an allegorical figure of Liberty. Having no attributes of its own, an image of the Republic was composed using elements drawn from various other symbolic figures, most notably the Roman personification of freedom, Libertas, who was adorned with the soft, cone-shaped Phrygian cap traditionally worn by emancipated slaves in ancient Rome. Following the precedents of such classical personifications, and the fact that the words liberte and republique are feminine in the French language (as is the country, La France), the Republic first was conceived as a female figure, making manifest the Revolution's rejection of the patriarchal monarchy and the literal elimination of the king's body as the central signifier of the French nation. Around the same revolutionary period, this allegorical female figure appeared on stamps, coins, and other official documents and began to be known as Marianne. The origin of this name is not clear; it had religious overtones, but it also was quite commonplace and, throughout the 19th century, the Republic's enemies used it derisively when they wished to emphasize the populist agenda she symbolized.

Marianne's iconography again was reinterpreted during the revolutionary year of 1848, when the government organized an open competition for artists to create an official figure of the Second Republic. Although no winner was declared, the entries by painters as diverse as Honore Daumier and Jean-Leon Gerome illustrate the rich--but somewhat muddled--field of representations that continued to inform Dore's later variations on the Republic figure. Like the entries in the 1848 contest, Dore's allegorical figure of the 1870s represents a generalized amalgamation of the attributes of several ancient, mostly Roman, personifications. The strong wings and laurel crown are those of Victoria. For "The Marseillaise," Dore also seems to have been inspired by Bellona, the war and battle goddess who carried a sword and a lit torch. As mentioned previously, Libertas provided what had remained the figure's most salient emblem since 1792: the Phrygian cap.

Including the Phrygian cap in representations of the Republic could be controversial, however, because like the refrains of "The Marseillaise," it closely was associated with revolution. It was censored during the Second Empire--as was the figure of Marianne--but even well after the Empire's collapse and the subsequent establishment of the Third Republic, there were some who remained reticent to adopt a symbol that was fraught with the memory of violent political upheaval. Dore drew on the cap's disruptive associations in a number of his sketches, including the chaotic "L'Annee Terrible" and "Liberty," in which the mighty winged figure wearing it emerges triumphantly from an arch beneath lifted iron bars, brandishing her broken chains over what appear to be several fallen kings and ready to trample a crown laying on the ground in front of her.

In the end, the great French military success presaged by patriotic images like "The Marseillaise" was not to be. With no allies, ill-prepared conscripts, supply and transportation problems, and woeful planning, it became clear within a few weeks of the war's commencement that there was little chance of France defeating the highly organized Prussians. Dore recognized the grim reality of the situation, the visions he conjured in compositions like "The German Rhine" now irretrievably lost, as he lamented to a friend to whom he gave one version of the picture: "Ah! both of our heads were filled with too extravagant dreams! My drawing has no longer any reason to exist; I give it to you. Keep it in remembrance of our vanished hopes."

By mid August 1870, one of three Prussian armies surrounded Dore's hometown of Strasbourg, which, to the artist's eternal ire, remained under brutal siege until Sept. 28, and ultimately was ceded to Prussia. Dore's brother, Emile, served in the French army in Strasbourg during the siege and was taken prisoner, worrying the artist greatly, as he made clear in a letter written just after the capitulation: "No news of my poor brother, the captain; we are in mortal disquietude."

In Metz, the other two Prussian regiments trapped Marshal Bazaine, who did not surrender until late October, when all of the French material abandoned there fell into Prussian hands for use in their already ongoing siege of Paris. In an attempt to aid Bazaine, the senior French commander, Marshal MacMahon, brought his forces as far as the town of Sedan at the very end of August. Entirely surrounded by Prussian forces and disastrously hampered by inadequate ammunition, supplies, and many wounded soldiers, including MacMahon himself, Emperor Napoleon III surrendered at Sedan on the morning of Sept. 2, 1870, and was taken prisoner by the Prussians. He remained a prisoner in Germany until March 1871, and then joined his exiled family in England where he lived the last few years of his life. In his fictionalized account of the war, Zola describes the Emperor's surrender as heralding "the collapse of a world, the Second Empire swept away in the wreckage of its vices and follies."

Conservative politicians in Paris had anticipated the dissolution of the Empire and, fearful of revolution, they had taken steps to ensure a smooth transition of power. Veteran politician, historian, and staunch monarchist Adolphe Thiers persuaded the physically ailing and already psychically defeated Emperor to appoint Gen. Louis Trochu military governor of Paris. The day after news of the Emperor's capitulation at Sedan reached Paris, Trochu, along with leading republican deputies Jules Favre, Jules Ferry, Jules Simon, and Leon Gambetta, gathered on the steps of the Town Hall in front of a cheering crowd to declare the Third Republic of France.

Of these leaders, only Gambetta was a "radical" Republican who wished, along with many Parisians, to continue the war with Prussia, despite all signs that it was hopeless. After attempts to raise an additional army in the provinces, he later would resign from the government when it signed an armistice with Prussia. Gen. Trochu, who became the chief executive of the new provisional Government of National Defense, was, in fact, a royalist and. along with moderate republicans Favre, Ferry, and Simon. wanted to end the hostilities inherited from the Empire as quickly as possible and begin reshaping France. A caricature published in February 1871, when France still was divided on the issue of continued war or settlement, depicts the exhausted figure of France, laying on the ground with her broken sword, being exhorted to fight on by Gambetta, while Favre takes her pulse. In the background, a horde of Prussian soldiers, joined by Napoleon III, wait to move in for the kill.

It widely was expected among Parisians, especially the working-class population, that they would be mobilized, and that the war to defend their country would be fought to the finish (guerre a l'outrance). Dore's illustration. "The Country in Danger," depicts the people answering this call: under a full moon, the winged woman in her Phrygian cap raps on the door of a house with the hilt of her sword, rousing another citizen to join the impassioned, armed crowd in the street behind her and fight for the country.

If it did not continue the war, the new Republic ran the risk of being overthrown by the simmering revolutionary faction in Paris, which certainly desired a fight to the finish. Although Favre met secretly with Bismarck to discuss a peace treaty, the government publicly pledged to carry on with the war, agreeing to arm only the officially sanctioned National Guard, for which many Parisians, including Dore, promptly disappeared. In a quick sketch, Dore captured the scene in front of the Pantheon in Paris where, under a large tent. citizens could sign up to protect the city. At age 38. Dore actually was too old for combat. He served well, though, by, designing a certificate to be distributed by the Government of National Defense to members of the National Guard. It portrayed the same winged female figure of his "Marseillaise" imagery, here holding a sword and flag and standing in front of the walls of Paris with Guardsman at the ready surrounding her.

The population of Paris spent an anxious, tense, and despairing September, as the new French Republic and its mobilized National Guard prepared for the Prussian artillery advance on the city. In 1871, Dore translated these sentiments into his painting "The Defense of Paris," one the three monocharomatic allegorical paintings from that year which were grouped in the artist's posthumous sale in 1885 under the heading "Souvenirs of 1870." Here, his allegorical figure stands before a heavy wooden door--the proverbial gates of Paris--bracing it with her strong wings and a standard held behind her. Soldiers and citizens--including a mother and infant--who already have been wounded or given their lives in defense of the capital surround her.

By Sept. 20, Paris and its neighboring suburbs were under siege by the Prussian army. Communication with the world outside was possible only via carrier pigeon and hot-air balloon, a circumstance most eloquently depicted by Puvis de Chavannes in a pair of large allegorical paintings. It also was during these early days of the siege that the morale-crushing news reached Paris of the final capitulations of Metz and Strasbourg, each of which already had endured the Prussian bombardment for weeks. Reports of defeat in fierce, close-range combat in the suburbs further reduced the hopes and spirits of the city. As winter approached and food supplies dwindled, the most immediate concern became the threat of starvation. Many popular prints, paintings, and written accounts of the period portray a freezing and dispirited population forced to eat rats, horses, and even their household pets.

Then, at the dawn of 1871, the Prussians began shelling the city itself. Although Dore did not engage in combat, accounts of his life during the difficult and demoralizing siege offer encomiums about his unflagging service to friends and others in need. Dore also spent time walking around the struggling city and, marshalling his considerable illustrative talent, made numerous drawings of what he observed. In these, he depicted scenes such as National Guard encampments, where the artist's fluent and energetic lines capture the tension between the mundane routines of gathering firewood, building shelters, and eating meals and the unseen Prussian cannons that threaten to shatter them at any moment; the Bois de Boulogne, so recently the fashionable meeting ground of Second Empire swells in their fine carriages, now home to a vast herd of sheep and cows, gathered there as a hedge against possible famine; and a group of poor Parisians escaping from the bombardment during the night, carrying their meager possessions in bundles and on carts. He filled one album with 26 sketches--some of which were conceived as magazine illustrations--that documented the various hardships facing the population in the beleaguered city, from families huddled together in cellars taking refuge from the shelling to the wrecked interiors of bombed houses to women standing in line for milk. Among the most famous of these sketches were the ones of the elephant at the zoo being led to slaughter, and of customers at an upscale butcher shop on the Boulevard Haussmann looking at the displays of exotic animal meat.

Dore claimed to have witnessed "many dramas and episodes of ruin" during the siege and some of his more emotive compositions from that period attest to this, like "The Overturned Cradle." Depicting a young mother recoiling in horror at the sight of a fallen bassinet and her dead baby, killed when a Prussian shell tore open the wall behind her, it closes the tragic narrative arc opened by "The Soldier's Farewell" and the related drawing "Departure of the National Guard," in which a soldier looks down tenderly at his sleeping baby before leaving. He revisited the theme of a child in danger in the only oil painting he made of the siege, "Sister of Charity Saving a Child," a powerful image in which the stark contrast between moonlit snow and dark shadows, between the nun's purposeful stride and the collapsed form of the wounded man in the street behind her, between the distant flashes and noise of the bombardment and the muffled, snow covered ground--tittered with a broken shell and blemished by a disturbing red stain--evoke the isolation and threat of sudden, random danger that defined life in Paris under siege.

When his friend Amelia Edwards suggested that he show in London his many fine sketches from this dark time, Dore was outraged: "Not for the world!" he said hastily. "Would you have me exhibit the misfortunes of my country?" Yet, Dore did portray the catastrophe faced by his country in one of the more intense images of his career, "The Black Eagle of Prussia." In it, France lies wounded and helpless on a battlefield among fallen soldiers, in a position reminiscent of the classical sculpture the "Dying Gaul," still gripping her broken sword and standard. A large and menacing black eagle--the emblem of Prussia--bears down on her with its sharp beak and talons, its wings making a powerful contrast to those of France, which shield a dead soldier beneath her. In the tense opposition between these two symbols--one submissive and one dominant--Dore visualized a new and disturbing dynamic in the relationship between the two nations. Since the 1814 publication of Madame de Stael's On Germany, France had viewed Germany as a land of poets and dreamers, a mistress requiting France's chivalric protection against the Prussian state, which had made its designs on the rest of the German territories increasingly clear. After its defeat, France became the "defiled maiden," and a united Germany was transformed in the French mind into a rapacious beast, preparing to have its way with her.

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes' "The Carrier Pigeon," the second of what he called his two "real allegories," also commemorated the siege of Paris through a skillful fusion of journalism and symbolism. It too features a confrontation between Paris and Prussia, Paris in the form of a woman standing on a snow-covered rooftop with the city spread out behind her, clutching a carrier pigeon to her breast, and Prussia in the familiar guise of the threatening black eagle she deflects. The woman lacks the conventional symbolic attributes of the city of Paris, and she wears a garment that, if not truly contemporary, is at least reminiscent of the somber mourning clothes worn by real women widowed by the war and siege. Yet, the caption Puvis inscribed on the picture's frame confirms the figure as a personification of the city during that difficult time: "Having escaped from the enemy claw the awaited message exalts the heart of the proud city." The woman's defensive interaction with the avian predator is metaphorical and historically specific, representing a clash between civic and national symbols, and simultaneously documenting the Prussian tactic of using hawks to intercept and kill the messenger pigeons Parisians relied on for communication during the siege. Even the picture's limited and muted palette serves a literal and symbolic purpose; the lack of mimetic color distances the image from reality and makes it more emblematic, but it also recalls the tonality of photography and thus evokes the assumed veracity of that medium.

Dore's nearly monochromatic palette in an allegorical painting like "The Black Eagle of Prussia" also magnifies the bleakness of the subject matter. Yet, as with his "Marseillaise" and other war-related compositions, he likely chose it in order to facilitate the image's transformation into a print.

A personification of France, the Republic, and the city of Paris being threatened or attacked by a fierce predatory bird, as seen in Dore's "The Black Eagle of Prussia," was a motif that also appeared frequently in political caricatures of the postwar period. Many portrayed the former Emperor himself as a winged predator, often an eagle, a polyvalent symbol long associated with the Napoleonic legend as well as with Prussia.

On Jan. 18, 1871, Bismarck realized his ultimate goal when Kaiser Wilhelm was crowned Emperor of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, where the Prussian's made their headquarters during the siege of Paris. This symbolic indignity, along with the very real hardships of the long, harsh winter and the impossibility of repelling the entrenched Prussian army, forced the new Republic to begin negotiating openly with Bismarck, who would not conclude a formal peace, however, until France had established a permanent government invested with the legal authority to end the war. In February 1871, during a 21-day armistice granted by the Prussians, French voters elected a National Assembly comprised of a small percentage of republicans and a majority of monarchists, a composition that reflected the long-standing division between Republican Paris and the rest of conservative, rural France. The Assembly then elected Adolphe Thiers "Chief of the Executive Power of the French Republic," an unwieldy title that excluded the term "President," thus deliberately keeping open the option of a monarchist restoration. The significance of this linguistic maneuver was not lost on the revolutionary faction in Paris, who were as alarmed and angered at the prospect of a merely temporary Republic as the many right-wing Assembly members were hopeful. They also were furious with the decision initially to convene the new government in Bordeaux rather than Paris. When Bismarck and his troops decamped in early March, the French government left Bordeaux and took up residence at Versailles, a further slight to the capital city that soon would have violent reverberations. When the peace treaty was concluded on Feb. 26, 1871--it formally was signed as the Treaty of Frankfurt on May 10--the worst fears of those who had wanted to continue fighting were confirmed: despite Jules Favre's famous vow made the previous September that he would yield to Germany "not an inch of our territory not a stone of our fortress," the provinces of Alsace and much of Lorraine were ceded, a staggering indemnity of 5,000,000,000 gold francs was imposed and, on March 1, 1871, Prussian troops marched in victory through Paris. Moreover, the loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany was considered by many to be no less than an act of treason.

For Dore, the loss of his home province, to which he would never again return, was a particularly bitter pill to swallow. He made several drawings with the winged figure, crowned with laurels and holding a sword, looking down sorrowfully at a group of Alsatian women and children, the spires of Strasbourg cathedral visible on the horizon. His most famous picture on this theme was "Alsace" (1872), in which an Alsatian peasant woman, wearing a widow's traditional black mourning clothes and casting her eyes down in sadness, stands against a wall clutching the tricolor flag of France to her breast.

The opinion that Thiers and his government were traitors grew tremendously when the National Assembly enacted a series of laws that had a negative financial impact on Parisians, including the cessation of payment to National Guardsmen. The mutual suspicions between an increasingly radicalized Paris and the new government at Versailles soon reached a critical point. Thiers' primary objectives in the wake of the war and siege were to restore order, quash popular uprisings, and consolidate state power. Thus, on March 17, 1871, he decided to retrieve the National Guard's remaining cannons and ammunition, which had been moved into working-class neighborhoods like Montmartre and Belleville, to keep them away from the Prussians, as can be seen in several sketches Dore made during this period. When the well-organized Parisian National Guard refused to give them up, an alarmed Thiers sent his "Versailles Army" to take the cannons back by force, a mission that went terribly wrong when his regular troops fraternized with the National Guardsmen and refused to fire on them. Thiers then ordered all his troops to withdraw from Paris, leaving the National Guard's Central Committee as the city's only authoritative body.

On March 26, Parisians elected their own government, known as the Commune, whose representatives were drawn predominantly from the working classes. The city essentially now was autonomous, but it remained within the crosshairs of Versailles, from which Thiers planned what became a shockingly violent repression. La semaine sanglante, or the Week of Blood, began on May 21. This time, Paris was bombarded not by a foreign enemy, but by French troops, commanded by a government whose anger at the Communards' revolt knew no bounds. There was fierce combat on the barricades in the streets. The Town Hall and the Tuileries Palace were reduced to rabble, and Paris blazed with fires ignited by Thiers' shells and those of the Communards.

Although both sides committed atrocities, some observers theorized that the particularly brutal slaughter of Communards, including women and children, was fueled in part by the regular army's desire to purge the shame of its recent and ignominious defeat: what it had been incapable of doing to the Prussian invaders, it would do to the Parisian insurgents. By the end of the Commune on May 28, 1871, when a Versaillais firing squad shot remaining National Guard troops against a wall at the Pere Lachaise cemetery, somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 Parisians had been killed.

While staying in Versailles during the Commune, Dore produced an extraordinary group of drawings depicting National Assembly members as well as Communards. He portrayed the Communard prisoners as a scruffy, misshapen lot, drawing freely from his caricaturist's arsenal of snout-like noses, maniacal eyes, lumpy flesh, squinty eyes, and wild hair. Some seem defiant, others furtive or even imbecilic. Particularly striking is a chubby female Communard, who emerges from the page in Dore's characteristically sinuous and energetic lines. She charges forward like a grotesque Winged Victory, sword at her side, dress billowing, mouth stretched wide to shriek "to death! to death! shoot them!" Here is the "unruly" woman warrior of the Commune, whose active, and sometimes violent, participation in the insurrection became legendary. Many admired them, but more often they were denigrated viciously as the horrifying and unnatural antitheses of nurturing, passive womanhood. Dore's drawing provides an appropriate match for the numerous sensational descriptions of these women in contemporaneous accounts.

Although Dore's own political sympathies seem to have been aligned more with Versailles, and against the "nameless monsters" of the Commune, he did not spare the new government his mockery. He watched the National Assembly members closely in their official sessions, and the resulting sketches--a gallery of buffoons, blowhards, and prigs--constitute a catalogue of affected poses, pretentious gestures, exaggerated facial expressions, and comical hairstyles. Dore inscribed each drawing with an imaginary excerpt from the subject's speech to complement the visual humor; thus, a cadaverous speaker's announcement that he has spent his whole life devoted to public health, or a corpulent speaker, whose deeply cross-hatched face suggests a florid complexion, leering over the lectern to state that one is not able to listen to horrible stories without growing pale. Dore's drawing of Adolphe Thiers, the head of the government and architect of the Commune's suppression, presents a tiny figure with a hawk-like face and opaque glasses.

Dore also trained his satirical eye on the new Republic that sanctioned the bloody reprisal against the Communards, turning to the allegorical figure that appears regularly in his war-related imagery. Like her heroic counterparts in "The Marseillaise" or "The Black Eagle of Prussia," she wears a vaguely classical garment, a Phrygian cap, and carries a weapon, but she also is grotesquely obese, with large, pendulous breasts and a distinctly porcine face. A halo hovers over her head, an ironic foil to her bayonet rifle and the knives hanging from her substantial waist.

Despondent over the events of l'annie terrible, Dore created a bleak image of the carnage and devastation left in the wake of the war and the Commune in his 1871 painting "The Enigma." This large, monochrome canvas, a companion to "The Defense of Paris" and "The Black Eagle of Prussia," also features the allegorical winged figure of France. Crowned with laurels, France turns her grieving face beseechingly up towards a solemn Egyptian sphinx--a symbol that evokes memories of a more glorious episode in France's history. According to some iconographical traditions, the Egyptian sphinx poses riddles like its Greek counterpart yet, in this image, France appears to be seeking an answer from the creature, which rests one paw on her shoulder in a gesture of comfort. Soldiers, as well as a woman and child, lie dead in the foreground, the distant city is in flames and black smoke clouds the horizon.

Alternating and combining the real and the imaginary, the factual and the allegorical, Dore's drawings and paintings from l'annee terrible reflect how profoundly he experienced the stunning political and social rupture triggered by the war and its aftermath, the misery of Paris and his country, and the uncertainty of its future: "Our poor capital is in flames; its palaces destroyed--its finest streets, and all that make it beautiful. As I write, I have before me immense volumes of smoke, rising to the heavens. In the whole history of the world, I don't think there is a parallel instance of so sanguinary a drama, and of such ruin."

Illustrating the Classics

DURING THE SECOND HALF of the 19th century, Paul Gustave Dore (1832-83) was one of the world's most famous artists. Born in Strasbourg, he essentially was a self-trained prodigy who arrived in Paris in 1846 and quickly found a place at the center of France's Second Empire society. He was, and still is, best known as an illustrator of such classic works as Dante's Inferno, Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, and Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales and, most famously, the great "Dore Bible." First published in 1865, it has appeared in more than 700 editions and, in its day, was the most successful book in the world.

Not content with this success, Dore also sought, but never quite achieved, recognition as a fine artist. The tepid critical response to his "serious" act notwithstanding, Dore produced a large body of oil paintings, drawings, and sculptures over the course of his career, as well as political commentaries on events of his time, genre scenes, and dramatic landscapes that especially were popular with noted American collectors. Religious subjects figure prominently in his large-scale paintings. While he had no true students or followers in his own lifetime (although he did rate a mention by Mark Twain), the products of his prodigious visual imagination went on to influence some of the titans of early 20th-century popular culture, from illustrator Edward Gorey to filmmakers Cecil B. DeMille and Walt Disney. Even today, Dore's legacy continues to assert itself in the realm of comic books and graphic novels.

A dossier of paintings, drawings, and books highlights, "Fantasy and Faith: The Art of Gustave Dore," an exhibition celebrating the recently published Yale University Press book of the same name. It is on view through April 1 at the Dahesh Museum of Art, New York.

Lisa Small is associate curator at the Dahesh Museum of Art, New York. This article is adapted from an essay appearing in the Yale University Press book, Fantasy and Faith: The Art of Gustave Dore.
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Title Annotation:Art History
Author:Small, Lisa
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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