(Strasbourg 1832 - 1883 Paris)
Terror (Maternal Love)
Signed on base g Doré and stamped 4228
Bronze with brown patina
Height 22 inches
Gustave Doré was forty-five years old and already a very successful illustrator, draftsman and painter when he first pursued sculpture. Without any formal training the in the medium, Doré never ceased to prove himself to be an innately and immensely talented artist. He taught himself the skills required to create highly impressive and imaginative three-dimensional works and reveled in pushing the boundaries of the medium. He was fond of challenging himself to work with dynamic, unbalanced compositions and pursued complex iconography and unorthodox subject matter. He exhibited the allegorical sculpture Fate and Love (La Parque et l’Amor) at the 1877 Salon, with humble trepidation: “There will be no shortage of criticisms and attacks, as I think that there are plenty of people who will be annoyed to see me as a sculptor, but I know that I will also have some staunch defenders.” The work is reviewed most favorably by The Art Journal, which asserts the sculpture to be “one of the most powerful and original of the later manifestations of his creative genius... A strange and sinister conception is this worked out with marvelous power.” Despite the enthusiastic response to his plasters and bronzes, Doré never achieved recognition as a true sculpture, in great part due to his limited time with the medium, ended prematurely by a heart attack at the age of fifty-one.
When Doré premiered his sculptures at the Salon he would do so on a grand scale, later producing reductions for commercial distribution. In 1867 the artist co-founded the Doré Gallery in New Bond Street, where his devoted English audience could purchase bronze and terracotta versions of the beloved works. Doré presented a large-scale plaster version of Terror (Maternal Love) in 1879, the composition for which he thereafter sent to the London gallery for reproduction. The work is likely influenced by The Messiah, the 1867 sculpture by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1828-1887) which earned him a Medal of Honor and the cross of the Legion of Honor after its debut at the Salon.
The thirty-eight sculptures that Doré executed at the end of his lifetime are arguably the most complex realizations of the artist’s profound theatrical and emotional perceptions. A talented acrobat, there is no doubt that the artist’s affinity to dynamic compositions was rooted in his own desire to physically defy gravity. Doré also experienced emotional instability at certain points in his life, feeling distrusted by the art world for his intense voracity for pushing boundaries and exploring a variety of mediums. It is possible that Doré’s affinity for macabre and strange subject matter, particularly in his sculptures, was due to a reoccurring battle with melancholy and depression. He was certainly scarred by his time as a volunteer in the National Guard during the Siege of Paris and the civil war during the Paris Commune of 1871. It was important to Doré that he bear witness to the death and destruction in order to share the tragedy of war in his artwork.