Collection Spotlight: Les fumeurs de hadchids (The hashish smokers)

Honoré Daumier, a painter, sculptor, illustrator, and printmaker, is perhaps most widely recognized for his poignant social satires. Persistently chastising politicians, royalty, lawyers, and other types through his artwork, Daumier found his place in Parisian publishing firms as a prolific lithographer, working predominantly for Maison Aubert. The ability to quickly and inexpensively reproduce images through lithography brought Daumier’s work to a wide audience as it appeared in a host of publications in the growing newspaper industry of 19th-century France.

One theme common to Daumier’s work is the arrogance of the French middle class. As evidenced by Les fumeurs de hadchids (The hashish smokers), one of hundreds of Daumier prints published in the magazine Le Charivari during the 1840s, the artist often portrayed the bourgeoisie as smug, lazy, and foolish. Here the artist mockingly shows two haughty men relaxing as they smoke the drug through long, thin pipes. Not only do Daumier′s characters epitomize indolence, but they also typify ignorance, with one saying to the other, “Oh, I am starting to get that marvelous oriental feeling…it seems as if I am riding on a camel!” Mistaking hash smoking for a truly “Oriental” experience, the men believe they are deriving worldly knowledge and experience from languid, drug-filled afternoons.

—Isaac Alpert (Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 2014)

You can make an appointment to see this work and others from the Block Museum’s permanent collection. Email printroom@northwestern.edu or see Visit the Study Center for more information.

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