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Paul Gustave Doré

Paul Gustave Doré (1832-1883) was a French artist who started his career as a literary illustrator in Paris when he was very young. In the following years several works were commissioned from him, including an illustrated edition edition of the Romantic poet Lord Byron’s works and Cervantes’novel Don Quixote, both of which wide popularity. His illustrated edition of the English Bible in 1866 was so successful that the following year he was invited to exhibit works in London. There he met William Blanchard Jerrold, a famous political journalist, who suggested working together to produce a comprenhensive portrait of London.
Doré spent three months walking around the city, and the result was a book – London: a Pilgrimage – which included 180 engravings by the artist, published in 1872. The work was a great success even if most comtemporary critics disliked it because of its insistence on poverty and degradation.

Doré was even accused of inventing the scenes he engraved rather than copying from reality. Doré was very able to fix on paper the squalor and misery of the London slums, the poorest overcrwoded districts of the town where derelict houses, lack os fresh air and extreme poverty maximised the spread of infectious disease. Bluegate Field and Houndditch were two of the worst slum areas that grew wothout any sanitary or social control during the 19th century in the east of London, north of the docks on the Thames. Doré’s style faithfully reproduces the wretchedness of the people living three through the inclusion of many realistic details, which highlight the human conditions in which so many people were obliged to live.
The Gothic atmosphere created by the prevailing darkness of the scenes conveys a sense of suffocation and lack of individual freedom that so effectively characterises Doré’s representation of London’s horrors.

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