When we featured his illumination of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” we called Gustave Doré “one of the busiest, most in-demand artists of the 19th century,” who “made his name illustrating works by such authors as Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, and Dante.” His hand may have given a visual dimension to a number of revered texts, but what of the man himself? For the deepest insight into an artist, we should look to the works of art he inspires. In the case of the cutout animated film above, Doré not only provides the inspiration but plays, in a sense, the starring role. L’imaginaire au pouvoir offers us a portrait of the artist as a two-dimensional man, stumbling into haunting drawn-and-cut-out realms straight from his own imagination.
“The film was created by Vincent Pianina and Lorenzo Papace of Le Petit Écho Malade and features music by Ödland,” writes EDW Lynch at Laughing Squid (a site that previously featured Le Petit Écho Malade’s music video for Ödland’s “Østersøen”) “It is a promo, Lynch adds, for ‘Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination,’ an ongoing exhibition of Doré’s work at Musée d’Orsay in Paris through May 11, 2014.” Though Doré, by all accounts, lived a fairly eventful life, he had to have spent a great deal of it slaving painstakingly away with his wood engraving tools. The same goes for any producer of such vivid artistic visions—but I suspect that all of them have to go on this kind of harrowing journey to the center of their soul now and again. Here, Pianina and Papace have, with Doré’s very materials, created a journey into the inner realm that still gives them life today. And they’ve added a healthy dose of 21st-century humor for good measure.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.