Ascension (1879)

Paul Gustave Doré (1832 -1883)

Art facts:

  • Artist: Paul Gustave Doré
  • Currently аt Petit Palais, City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. Paris, France.
  • Original size: 16.5” x 24” inches
  • This work is linked to Luke 24:51

About the Artist:

            Paul Gustave Doré, in full, Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré, was born January 6, 1832, in Strasbourg, France, and died January 23, 1883, in Paris. Gustave Doré was a renowned painter and book illustrator who flourished during the second half of the 19th century. Doré is best known for his book illustrations, particularly his illustrations for the Bible and Dante. He devoted himself to painting, engraving, and later sculpture.

            Doré was the second of three children born to Pierre Louis Christophe Doré, an engineer, and his wife, Alexandrine Marie Anne Pluchart. Doré received little formal artistic training, but his talents as a draughtsman were already apparent during his school years. In 1847 he went to Paris, and from 1848 to 1851, he produced weekly lithographic caricatures for the Journal pour Rire and several albums of lithographs (1847–54). His later fame rested on his wood-engraved book illustrations. Employing more than 40 woodcutters, he produced over 90 illustrated books. He was almost entirely self-taught yet ranked as a significant artist and achieved great wealth by selling his works.

            Dore first made his mark by his illustrations to Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel (1854) and Balzac’s ContesDrolatiques (1856), which fully displayed his facility of execution and his incredible power of invention. His exuberant and bizarre fantasy created vast dreamlike scenes widely emulated by Romantic academicians. Sales of his works allowed Gustave Dore to enjoy a life of affluence.

About the painting:

            In the Christian tradition, the Ascension of Christ concludes Jesus’ work on Earth with his entry into the celestial sphere after His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Doré depicts Christ, in glory but still human, with wide-open arms and surrounded by a multitude of angels gesticulating theatrically.

            As seen in the distance through the clouds, the earthly world takes on the appearance of a wild and majestic landscape inspired by the Scottish Highlands, which Doré discovered during a trip to Scotland in 1873. Thus, the painter gives the Biblical account a concrete and dreamlike dimension, placing the onlooker far away from the Earth, amidst the Angels.