“The Temptation by the Devil” by Gustave Doré

In today’s gospel reading, our Lord reminds us that no one is free from temptation. Spiritual battles are real, and the prince of this world is keen for us to make him, and the kingdoms that have been handed over to him, our center, instead of God.

But I’m not going to rehash the homily you heard today. Instead, I’m just going to share the work of the fellow who is credited with the engraving you see above. An artist by the name of Gustave Doré.

Doré was something of an all-around artistic genius. His career started at age 15 with sketches he could pen in an instant. Here’s a snippet from the sleeve of Fantasy and Faith: The Art of Gustave Doré,

Gustave Doré (1832–1883) is best known as one of the finest book illustrators of the nineteenth century, but he was also a painter and sculptor of international repute. His illustrated Bible, first published in 1865, has appeared in over 700 editions and in its day was the most successful book in the world. Mentioned by Mark Twain, it has influenced a wide range of popular imagery from the films of Cecil B. DeMille to the illustrations of Edward Gorey. Religious subjects also feature in Doré’s large-scale paintings as well as political commentaries on events of his time, genre scenes, and dramatic landscapes that were especially popular with noted American collectors.

That volume costs a fortune. Thankfully, there are less expensive alternatives available.

For example, a Google search of  Doré’s work brings up a gallery that you can look at for free for hours and hours on end. Another author has put together a volume on the artist as well.

Dan Milan, author of Gustave Doré – Adrift on Dreams of Splendor sketches the life of the artist here,

Doré exploded onto the Parisian art scene at the age of 15, even though he was short and looked about ten years old. The Doré family visited Paris for the first time when Gustave was 15 and he fell in love with that capital of artistic sophistication. One day they went by a publishing company, with a set of engravings displayed in the window. Gustave immediately hatched a plan. The next morning he feigned illness and told the family to go on without him. He quickly made several sketches and headed for that publishing company. He walked in the front door, found the office of the publisher Charles Philipon, and barged right in. He plopped his drawings down on Philipon’s desk and exclaimed, “This is how that set of illustrations should be done.” Philipon was amused at Gustave’s antics, but when he looked down at the drawings he almost cried. He called several other people into his office. No one could believe that little boy had actually done the drawings. So they asked him to do some more drawings right there. He did additional drawings in literally seconds. A collective gasp went up from the group. At this point Philipon refused to let Gustave leave his office. They tracked down Gustave’s father and brought him to Philipon. They talked him into signing a lucrative contract for Gustave on the spot. Since the Dorés were headed back home, little Gustave moved in with Monsieur Philipon.

By the age of 16, Gustave Doré was the highest paid illustrator in France, making more per page than Honore Daumier made at the height of his career

For more background on the artist, Felix Just, SJ, hosts The Doré Bible Gallery at his website, Catholic Resources.

Was Doré a Catholic? That is a very good question, dear reader, and I must report that I do not know the answer. Perhaps one of you knows and can share it with us here? Doré was from the Alsace region of France, and hailed from Strasbourg. According to the 1900 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, there is a good chance that he was a Catholic.

I’ll see if I can get my hands on a library owned copy of Fantasy and Faith: The Art of Gustave Doré in order the find the answers. Regardless of the faith of the man, his artistic talent were prodigious.

Remember this one from Milton’s Paradise Lost? Of course you do.


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