A radiograph of this painting shows a previous use of the canvas for a horizontal composition, apparently another version of the painting La Loge de Théâtre in The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (see K. E. Maison, Honoré Daumier, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Vol. 1 (Greenwich, Conn., , no. 72). According to Henri Marceau (in Daumier 1808-1879 [Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Philadelphia,1937], 15), the Dumbarton Oaks painting "consists of barely more than a general tone to cover the earlier work and to indicate background, hair, flesh and shoulders. These flat colour areas have been confined between outlines to which the artist eventually planned to work. The picture is a classic example of Daumier' s method." Daumier appears to have added the black outlines as if sculpting the color masses, detailing the hair and dress, and reducing the girth of the columnar neck.
The profile figure of this painting is very similar to the central figure in the ca. 1865-1870 Au théâtre (Fauteuils d'orchestre) in the Cincinnati Art Museum (Maison, Vol. 1, no. 46). A related Daumier pencil and ink drawing exists in a private collection (Maison, Vol. 2, no. 488); and an analogous figure is found in L'Attente à la gare (Maison Vol. 2, no. 308). Maison dates the Dumbarton Oaks painting ca. 1850-1853.
Honoré Daumier was born in Marseilles in 1808 but moved to Paris with his family at the age of eight. He spent his time after apprentice jobs copying works in the Louvre, where the director and artist, Alexandre Lenoir (1761-1839), noticed his talent and persuaded Daumier's parents to allow him to begin training with Lenoir. In the 1820s, Daumier apprenticed to the lithographer, Zéphirin Belliard (1798-1861), where he mastered this new medium and launched a successful career as a graphic artist and political cartoonist. Although Daumier reportedly painted in oils in the 1830s, most of his paintings were made between 1855 and 1870 before his eyesight declined. Painting subjects of everyday working class life, Daumier typically employed an expressive contour outlining with broadly painted minimal detail. His paintings, however, never found popular success, even though he was accepted four times by the Salon. An exhibition of his work was held at Durand-Ruel's gallery in 1878, the year before his death at his country home in Valmondois.
Catalogue de la Vente Octave Mirbeau. Paris, 1919, no. 16, ill.
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Alexandre, A. La Collection Kélékian: Tableaux de l'Ecole Française Moderne. Paris, 1920, pl. 23.
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Rosen, David and Henri Marceau. "Technical Notes on Daumier." in Daumier 1808-1879. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Museum of Art, 1937), 11, 15, and 25, fig. 10, pl. 14.
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Marceau, Henri. "Photographic Aids and their Uses in Problems of Authenticity in the Field of Paintings." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 97, No. 6 (December 1953), 699, fig. 21.
Maison, K.E. Honoré Daumier, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Vol. 1. Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, , no. I-46, 77-78, pl. 12.
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Collection of Octave Mirbeau, Paris [sales catalogue, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 2/24/1919, no. 16, ill.].
Purchased by the Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris.
Owned by the Gallerie Dikran Khan Kélékian, Paris.
Purchased from Kélékian Sale, American Art Association, New York, New York, by Eugene O. M. Liston (probably for Dikran Khan Kélékian) 1/30-31/1922 [sales catalogue, no. 102, ill.].
Purchased from Dikran Khan Kélékian, New York, New York (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 4/2/1937.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 4/2/1937-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.