Gustave Doré (French, 1832–1883),
oil on canvas, 30 x 60½ in., 76.2 x 153.67 cm
Gift of Mrs. Lily Javits, 1948.23
Best known for his graphic work, Doré illustrated over 100 books throughout his career, including Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Cervantes' Don Quixote, as well as works by Dumas, Poe, and Tennyson. Underlying Dore's imagery is a strong sense of the fantastic and the macabre, qualities that served the artist well when he embarked upon a powerful series of drawings depicting the grim urban conditions of industrial England. Doré used realism to give strength to the fanciful at the same time as he intensified reality through the depiction of extreme situations — fact or fiction.
Doré's paintings, which also blend realism with a sense of heightened imagination, met with less acclaim in his native France than they did in Britain, where their essentially Romantic nature found immediate acceptance with a public accustomed to the distilled vision of J. M. W. Turner or the implicit narrative approach of Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg. Doré returned the compliment by regularly exhibiting at a gallery he opened in London in 1868. Much of his early subject matter derived from the Black Forest, the Alps, and the Pyrenees but, after a visit to the Scottish Highlands in 1873, he wrote, "Henceforth, when I paint landscapes, I believe that five out of every six of them will be reminiscent of the Highlands." Mountain Landscape, with its low-lying, rugged mountains behind an expansive stretch of inland water, is more than a little "reminiscent of the Highlands.”