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Two Sculptors

Honoré Daumier ( between 1870 and 1873 )

Collection item 0383
  • Period Nineteenth-Century
  • Materials Oil on wood panel
  • Object Number 0383
  • Dimensions 10 1/2 x 14 in.; 26.67 x 35.56 cm.; Framed: 18 3/8 in x 21 1/2 in x 3 in; 46.67 cm x 54.61 cm x 7.63 cm
  • Credit Line Acquired 1925

In Two Sculptors, two men scrutinize a piece of sculpture. A silent and poignant exchange appears to be taking place: the attention of the men is riveted on the object before them, while the sculpted figures, depicted from behind, return their fraternal gaze. Furthermore, a plastic aesthetic permeates the work as a whole; indeed, the human figures, no less than their sculpted counterparts, resemble the clay models Daumier himself often executed.

Phillips, who delighted in Daumier’s “sculpturesque projections of forms in space,” envisioned the artist’s working process: “In Two Sculptors he built the two heads in little planes, seeming to thumb the color as if it were clay and stopping at the moment when the characters revealed themselves.” The work also spoke to Phillips’s concern with the basic truth of art as personal vision, revealing “two creators working on the same problem from temperamentally different points of view. It is Daumier’s version of ‘the artist sees differently’.”

The two figures have not been identified with certainty; Maison has suggested that the bearded figure may portray Jean-Baptiste Clésinger (1814-1883), a sculptor and painter who shared Daumier’s political convictions.