A critic called him 'Molière with a crayon'.He was a caricaturist—a satirist in ink— as Henry James said in his essay on Daumier, which is a kind of “journalism made doubly vivid.” Of him Balzac said, “He's got Michelangelo in his system.” Degas declared him the equal of Delacroix. The young Rodin, when he saw Daumier’s statuette Ratapoil —a caricature of Louis Napoleon— said, “What a Sculptor!”
Daumier was born in 1808 in Marseilles, the third child and first son of Cécile-Catherine and Jean-Baptiste Daumier, a glazier. Daumier père died insane in 1851. Daumier had little formal education. “The streets of Paris,” Howard Vincent wrote, “were his school and college, his occupation and pastime. They were his career. They formed him, made him aware." In 1821, Daumier took a job as a clerk at a bookstore in the Palais-Royale, near two important printsellers and the Louvre. Here is the famous lithograph Gargantua which earned him a six month prison sentence.
We see a bloated, pear-headed Louis-Philippe perched on a commode. The starving citizens of France struggle up a plank to deposit the country’s treasure in his gaping maw. Down below, ministers and favorites scurry about eagerly with the sundry writs, honors, and ribbons that the king obligingly excretes. In August, 1832, Daumier was arrested and incarcerated in Sainte-Pélagie prison: “a charming resort,” he wrote to a friend, “where not everyone enjoys himself.”
In the last year of the Second Empire, Daumier was offered the Legion of Honor, which he refused from a government he detested. He died blind and poor in a house, the painter Courbet, bought for him secretly. But his message hasn't dimmed.