Bluebeard Gustave Doré Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Bluebeard is an illustration from the career of French artist, Gustave Doré. It was a part of a large commissioned project which was published in 1862 and featured a large number of drawings from this famous illustrator.

Gustave Doré was particularly prolific across the 1860s, a decade in which he produced some of his most famous illustrations. He was tasked with bringing to life the work of Charles Perrault from several centuries earlier. The French author had taken a number of folk tales and re-invented them as some of the famous tales that we know today, including Bluebeard. Illustrated books were popular in France and the UK at this time and eventually the stories would also be translated into English as well. Education levels were also deepening across society, meaning more people were able to enjoy these delightful creations. It was therefore good timing on Doré's part that he was able to woo a number of major publishers in Western Europe, who in return would provide him with regular work. By the end of his career he would have released over 10,000 illustrations, despite passing relatively young at the age of 51. He worked tirelessly right up to his death and left behind a huge legacy in the field of book illustration, with some notable contributions in other mediums too.

The stories produced by Charles Perrault would feature in theatrical plays for centuries to come, and the work of Doré would have an influence on how they 'saw' these stories in their own minds. Within Bluebeard, we find two figures in the foreground, dressed in highly decorative clothing. Many different versions of the story of Bluebeard have been produced over the years and one of the best known regards his wife attempting to avoid a terrible fate, as his previous wives had endured. We therefore see within this composition the wealthy gentleman holding keys in his hand, whilst attempting to woo this young, attractive lady. The artist adds very little content other than the figures themselves, but does go into great detail on their clothing. Bluebeard himself has a bushy beard which covers almost his entire face. His hat is decorated by a large feather and he wears a thick coat. The lady looks sweet and trusting, serving the highlight the balance within this famous story.

This, and many other fairy tales by the French author, would come from Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Doré became known as the leading book illustrator in Europe during the 19th century and he would be courted by most major publishers at this time. Literacy levels were increasing across Europe, meaning more and more potential customers could enjoy these stunning publications that combined the best of European art and literature together. Doré did want to achieve fame in other mediums too, but became frustrated at how remained regarded as an excellent illustrator who also did other work, rather than as a master of many mediums. That said, he still sold large amounts of oil paintings too, though his main focus was always the illustrations that provided considerable profits and helped to bring patrons to his door in large numbers. He remains known today as one of the finest illustrators of all time, from any country, and publications of his work continue today, more than a century later.

Bluebeard in Detail Gustave Doré