Paul Sulpice Gavarni

French , 1804 - 1866

French artist Paul Gavarni was born in Paris in 1804. As a teenager, Gavarni was encouraged to draw by his uncle, Guillaume Thiémet. Because of his talent for mathematics, Gavarni was apprenticed to an architect and an optical instruments firm. In 1818, he attended the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers to study mechanical drawing. During this time, lithography had recently made its first appearance into France and Paris was becoming an important center for production. Gavarni spent three years traveling and working in the Pyreneés after his studies were completed at the Conservatoire. Many of the drawings he produced during that time would be incorporated later into some of his published lithographs.

After his travels in the Pyreneés, Gavarni returned to Paris where he became an urban spectator, using the sights of the city as subjects of his sketches. He began publishing work in the fashion magazine “La Mode” in 1830 and success quickly followed. In the early 1830s, Gavarni worked for “L’Artiste”, “La Caricature” and most notably “Le Charivari”, owned by Charles Philipon.

Working continuously until 1844, he produced over 900 prints for “Le Charivari” and in 1846 he created eleven more series, collectively called “Oeuvres Nouvelles”. Gavarni visited London for three years and upon his return he produced eighteen more series named “Masques et Visages” in 1852 and 1853.

He socialized with other artists and writers of the time, among them, Charles Dickens, Honoré Balzac, and Edgar Degas. He lived a life of drinking, dancing and socializing, much like the themes he often depicted in his lithographs.

Gavarni produced his last series of lithographs in 1857 and 1858, after returning from another trip to London. His work from this period is said to be more somber and nostalgic. He became somewhat reclusive towards the end of his life and his preoccupation with themes of poverty and decrepitude leading to his diminishing popularity. His work was, however, still strongly supported by his critics until his death in 1866.
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