The painting “Wandering Saltimbanques” by Honoré Daumier is a notable example of Realism. It was created using oil on wood between the years c. 1847-1850, and is currently part of the Chester Dale Collection in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The painting features performers at fairs and depicts an aging clown banging a drum to attract an audience.
Daumier’s loose, expressive brushwork is evident in this work, showing his likeness to other artists like Goya, Delacroix, and Géricault. Although he was primarily known for political cartoons and caricatures during his lifetime as a social and political satirist, recognition of Daumier’s qualities as a painter has grown since his death.
Through this painting, Daumier examines the human condition more seriously than in his political works. The piece showcases the struggles that these wandering performers face while trying to attract patrons at fairs. Their aging bodies are exposed through their dirty clothes and tired faces.
Overall, “Wandering Saltimbanques” is an important artwork that exemplifies Honoré Daumier’s skillset as an artist beyond being a political caricaturist. Through its somber portrayal of wandering performers trying to make ends meet at fairs, it gives viewers insight into the difficult lives led by entertainers during that era.