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Don Quixote with best paintings and illustrations, from Doré and Daumier to Dali and Picasso

Let’s travel together with the characters of the novel and the most famous and interesting artists.
It’s been over 400 years since the first publication of the novel The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. The Second part of The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha was published in Madrid in 1615 in the same printing house as the first part, Don Quixote of the 1605 edition. And only in 2015 were the bones of the famous Spanish writer found in Madrid’s Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.
Marble Statue of Miguel de Cervantes at the entrance of the National Library of Spain in Madrid (1892).

The author of the immortal novel, Miguel de Cervantes (1537−1616) could have become the hero of a fascinating novel himself. He was born in a poor family. He served in the navy, participated in the naval battle between Spain and the Ottoman Empire
Empire (fr. empire – imperial) is the style of the late classicism in architecture, applied art and painting. It was popular during the first three decades of the 19th century.
It is characterized by the craving for monumentality and greatness: so that it immediately becomes clear to everyone that the emperor’s power is almost limitless! The Empire style arose in France during the reign of Napoleon, later it was replaced by the eclectic art movements currents and then itfound its revival in ... the Soviet Union. Read more
and was injured, permanently losing the use of his left hand. For several years, Cervantes served at the court in Naples. On Cervantes' voyage to Barcelona, his ship was attacked and captured by pirates, and the future writer spent five years as a captive in Algeria, waiting for his family to collect a huge amount of money to pay his ransom. He tried to escape four times, and each time one of the conspirators thwarted his escape plan. It’s a miracle that he wasn’t executed by the corsairs.
Juan De Hauregi and Aguilar. Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes
Back in Spain, Cervantes had to work hard to compensate for the ransom. He started buying supplies for Spain’s "Invincible Armada" but didn’t succeed: Cervantes was accused of embezzlement of public money and sent to prison. It was in prison when he came up with the idea of writing The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. The novel became very popular immediately after the publication, but didn’t bring its author much money. And, it seems that misfortune kept following Cervantes even after his death — his burial place remained unknown for 400 years!
The old soldier knew the words of love!
Let’s start our journey with an unexpected artistic interpretation: glamor and chivalry, fancy that! In the Rococo period, French painter and decorator Charles-Antoine Coypel created a courtly cycle on this subject.
Charles-Antoine Coypel was the chief painter of the Duke of d’Orleans, received commissions from the mistress of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour — for the design and decoration of the Palace of Versailles, was the director of the Royal Academy and even had private apartments in the Louvre.

Coypel created 28 cartoons depicting scenes from the story of Don Quixote for tapestries produced by the ‘Manufacture Royal des Goblins'. They were a great success, so they were endlessly woven from 1714 to 1794. Even the well-remembered classic deer from grandmothers nice interiors are very far from them!
Back then, luxurious tapestries were valued much more than in our days. For example, they were used as diplomatic gifts and sometimes even played a decisive role in making a fateful decision — conclusion of peace or beginning a war.
Don Quixote tapestries, made in 1773 after Antoine Coypel’s cardboards.
J. Paul Getty Museum
Gustave Doré's complete "quixotism"
During his life, Gustave Doré, the great illustrator of world classics, who created 80,000 drawings (an incredible number!) became the most scrupulous "narrator" of the Cervantes' novel and its symbolism
Exquisite still-lifes and marvelous plants on canvases: flowers do not only beautify the appearance, but also open secret meanings, and convey messages to the attentive researcher. Leafing through captivating Herbarium, we're examining enigmatic garden of flower symbols.

Read more Symbolism is an art movement that has been reflected in painting, literature and music. It emerged in the 1870s-1880s in France, later spread to Belgium, Norway, and the Russian Empire. It reached the peak of popularity at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Symbolism is characterized by sadness, introspection and understatement: as if an artist came to quiet despair, but he was too shy to talk about these feelings, so he painted them.

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. When Doré decided to illustrate Don Quixote, Louis Viardot had just completed a new translation of the novel, which became classic in French literature (the name Viardot is better known because of his wife’s love affair with Turgenev — meanwhile, Louis was a famous writer, art historian, translator and critic).
In 1855, Doré went to Spain, "to the homeland of this glorious knight, to convey the local flavor and see the places that he glorified by his heroic deeds." Doré created 370 illustrations to the novel, which can help trace the path of the ingenious nobleman with all its twists and turns.
Paul Gustave Dore. Illustration for M.Servantes' novel Don Quixote
The first drawing, the frontispiece, depicts the mad Don Quixote among his visions and represents the most complex composition: battles, love adventures, challenges to a duel, fantastic inventions and absurdities…
What a surprise: being used to Doré's monochrome graphics, we are genuinely surprised by his works in colour. The brighter the images!
Émile Bayard, Doré's contemporary artist, wrote, "The subject, the interpretation of the scene and the composition were born in the artist’s imagination in a completely finished form, and all that remained for him to do was to put this 'creative vision' on paper. Carelessly scattering on paper, Doré placed a human figure somewhere in the corner, then, some distance away, — a spear, an arm, a leg, a temple column, a horse, a wheel, groups of riders, a silhouette of a landscape, then quickly combined it all into one complex composition." And what’s crazy, Doré never made any changes to his drawings. Compositional gift is the hallmark of his art.
Doré not only makes fun of knighthood, drawing the type of idealist divorced from reality: his drawings are witty and inventive, just like the main character of the novel!
The cruel world and the tragedy of the unrecognized "original"
From the 1850s, Doré's older contemporary, Honoré Daumier, also used the image of Don Quixote, but he was not interested in the expeditions and adventures of the gallant knight. The artist explored his inner world with the thorough analysis of all its doubts, torments and disappointments.
Honore Daumier. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Honore Daumier. Con Quixote reading chivalric novel

Don Quixote reading the chivalric romance does not feel any inspiration or impulse, the hero has no desire to go in search, he feels the spent life. The artist reflects on his path, perhaps even on his vain attempts to change the world and to fight the evil — which Daumier did in his caricatures. All his life, he worked as a cartoonist for Le Charivari magazine, portrayed all strata of French society, and was fired from the newspaper at the end of his life. Daumier died broke.
The beginning and flourishing of his work are represented by realistic pictures or caricatures in which he made fun of politicians and bourgeois, and at the end of his life, Daumier took a philosophical direction. The artist chose his hero — Don Quixote — as a symbol of a lonely idealist, a staunch fighter against the Invincible. In the last work of the series, Don Quixote was left alone, even without his faithful companion Sancho Panza. However, his spear was up, and the knight continued his journey.

Serov bet… on the horse
Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
In Valentin Serov’s drawing, Cervantes' characters turned out to be some kind of unimpressive and impersonal, while Don Quixote’s horse, Rocinante, catches the eye. Moreover, Serov shifted away from the true description of the knight’s comrade’s appearance.
It took Don Quixote a long time to choose the name for his horse and according to the knight’s plan, it had to indicate his past and present, and correspond to the new status of his owner. He chose the name Rocinante ("rosin" means "nag", "low-quality horse", and "ante" - "before") — "a name, to his thinking, lofty, sonorous, and significant of his condition as a hack before he became what he now was, the first and foremost of all the hacks in the world." But is it really a nag in Serov’s work?
Don Quixote, Chaliapin and Benois.
Don Quixote became an image, close to the heart of the eccentric and incredibly talented Feodor Chaliapin. In 1909, the director of the royal Théâtre de Monte-Carlo Raul Gunsburg suggested that Chaliapin play Don Quixote in his play.
During Russian ballet season of 1909 in Paris, the singer listened to the opera and wrote to Gorky: "For two nights, I listened to the opera’s music and libretto, and both times was crying like a cow. It was Don Quixote, the Knight of the Sad Countenance. Right, of the sad countenance and he was so honest, so holy, that seemed ridiculous and funny for all those bastards, that rust, unworthy even to be on his armor… Oh, Don Quixote of La Mancha, so sweet and dear to my heart, I love him so much."
Alexandre Benois. Don Quixote. Costume don Quixote for Chaliapin
Chaliapin spent a long time preparing for the opera: he re-read the novel several times, looked through many illustrations in search of the desired image, the actor even took up a pencil and personally captured his touching hero. He asked all his acquaintances for advice and collected impressions. He asked Alexandre Benois, as a connoisseur of the era, to draw his costume and appearance.
  • A sketch
    A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
    So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
    of Don Quixote's make-up with an autograph for K. Korovin. A drawing by F. Chaliapin. 1910
  • F. Chaliapin as Don Quixote in the opera Don Quixote. The theater at the Monte Carlo casino. 1910
"What should I do in order for public to smile trustfully and affectionately, when seeing Don Quixote for the first time, thinking: that’s you, our old friend? It is clear that his appearance should reflect both imagination and helplessness, the manners of the warrior, the weakness of the child, the pride of the Castilian knight, and the kindness of the saint. We need a striking mix of something comic and touching." — F. Chaliapin
  • F. Chaliapin – Don Quixote
  • L. Arbel – Dulcinea, F. Chaliapin – Don Quixote. A scene from the play Don Quixote. The theater at the Monte Carlo casino. 1910
In 1910, Chaliapin played Don Quixote on the stage of the royal theater in The Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. The opera was a triumph! An exceptional story happened next year, when Chaliapin was invited to participate in a new performance. There was a drama between the impresario and the singer. In addition to his outstanding organizing skills, Gunsburg also composed music, sang and danced, his operas were staged in the theater. Once at the rehearsal, he compared himself to Mozart and declared that his works were immortal. Chaliapin called it the all-fired gall. Gunsburg challenged Chaliapin to a duel, but the seconds never showed up to the actor, and two weeks later they made up.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza: a painting by Picasso
And now — the story of the appearance of the most famous image of the main characters of the novel! On August 10, 1955, Pablo Picasso's friend and biographer Pierre Daix came to the artist’s villa in Cannes with a business proposal. The French journal Les Lettres Françaises wanted to use Picasso’s drawing in the issue, celebrating the 350th anniversary of the first part of Don Quixote.
Pablo Picasso. Don Quixote
…While the friends were talking, Picasso created his famous drawing of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. A week later, it was published in the celebratory issue of the journal, and later Picasso decided to print the circulation of his Don Quixote and his drawings of various formats were successfully sold until 1961. Picasso loved Cervantes from his school years, and with particular pleasure drew everything that was connected with the Spanish tradition and reminded him of his homeland.
Dalí, the brave knight!
Later, the illustration of Cervantes' novel experienced incredible metamorphoses, because another Spanish indefatigable genius, Salvador Dalí, took up the case. In 1945, the artist got the idea to illustrate a book about Don Quixote from his father, who wrote that it was "a task worthy of his talent." In 1945−1946, while living in America, Dalí was working on the illustrations — he created 38 drawings and five sketches. It was planned to publish a new edition of the pocket-sized novel with Dalí's drawings, but the publisher went bankrupt and the book did not come out.
Dalí highly valued those drawings and kept them among his favourite works, which he most often admired alone. The drawings were first published in 2004 and are little-known today. After that, Dalí created another three cycles of illustrations to the novel.
The second time Dalí turned to Don Quixote was in 1956, when the Parisian publisher Joseph Foret decided to illustrate the novel by Cervantes and considered Dalí to be the only artist suitable for his extraordinary publication. Foret brought him some lithographic stones and convinced the artist to accept his proposal. Dalí approached a new task with all his imagination and… invented a new lithography technique — bulletism!
Dalí went to the banks of the Seine and set to work. He loaded his fifteenth-century arquebus, which he got from his friends, with bullets filled with lithographic paint and, surrounded by the crowd of female fans, started to shoot at the lithographic stones from the deck of the barge. That resulted in ink blots, which Dalí, using his artistic talent and brilliant imagination, turned into the exploits of Don Quixote.
Then he experimented in Montmartre: Dalí took the horns of a rhinoceros and stuffed them with bread crumbs, and then threw them on the stone and — having broken, they turned into the sails of the windmill. Thus, Dalí "shot" 13 lithographs.
Anatoly Zverev and his Don Quixote: an unusual dialogue
Don Quixote by the Russian artist Anatoly Zverev is no less original. This master is called the legend of the second Russian avant-garde
Avant-garde is how modern art critics refer the general trend of new artistic directions that arose in world art at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. A very thin line separates it from the concept of “modernism”. Read more
, and Picasso himself considered him the best draftsman in the Soviet Union.
Anatoly Zverev. Dulcinea

Dulcinea by A. Zverev

It took this virtuosic artist 40 minutes to create a masterpiece, he took commissions to paint portraits in order to survive. "youSit down, baby, I will perpetuate you," - a famous phrase Zverev used every time he began to draw a female portrait. The artist spent nights painting in the house of his friend and collector George Costakis, in the company of art lovers. Anatoly considered Leonardo da Vinci to be his teacher, and Zverev’s contemporaries called the artist a phenomenal person, whose paintings contain a crazy temperament that conveys the intensity of feelings.

Anatoly Zverev. Don Quixote

In 1957, an international youth festival of abstract art was held in Moscow. The organisers of the festival held an art competition, and Zverev won it. By the way, the artist studied at the art school for only two years and was expelled, he made a living working as a painter in a park in Sokolniki and painting fences! At the competition, Anatoly got the golden medal from the chairman of the jury — the famous Mexican artist Siqueiros.

Marcel Pajot’s obsession: a poor knight and a woman in red
Don Quixote, born of the imagination of the French artist Marcel Pajot, is a character of the eternal human comedy with a bit of madness. These paintings are similar to the theatrical scenes of some carnival performance — the knight is sometimes half-naked, sometimes rides his nag, then becomes the object of sexual harassment of half-naked seductresses, then lies in his bed, next to a pile of novels and wearing a night-cap and, having closed his eyes, dreams of adventures, women and exploits. Funny, bold, and still very touching!
Marcel Pajot. The black sun of don Quixote
The black sun of don Quixote
XXI century, 58×58 cm
Marcel Pajot was born in a French village in 1945. Having studied at an art school in Angers for a while, he left it — the artist did not want to part with his girlfriend for a long time. We see this red-haired girl in almost all his paintings; she became his muse, his Dulcinea. Pajot paints either Don Quixote or carnival scenes. Now, he illustrates modern French novels.
Marcel Pajot. Nightmare of Don Quixote
Nightmare of Don Quixote
XXI century, 80×80 cm
Marcel Pajot painted his Don Quixote. Creating the painting in 2010, it became a landmark work, in which the artist brought together all the themes that he had been working on for decades. Pajot depicted his own workshop, there is an unfinished picture with a naked lady on the easel, and Don Quixote stares at it intently: old age and desire meet youth here; at the easel, we can see the artist himself. The self-portrait!
Marcel Pajot. Don Quixote. The creation of the painting
Marcel Pajot. Don Quixote de La Mancha and Sancho Panza
Marcel Pajot. Library Of Don Quixote
XXI century, 100×81 cm
Marcel Pajot. Don Quixote. Masquerade
XXI century, 58×58 cm
Marcel Pajot. Curse. Don Quixote
XXI century, 65×81 cm
Octavio Ocampo’s illusions: mind-blowing!
Octavio Ocampo. Visions Of Don Quixote
Contemporary Mexican artist and decorator Octavio Ocampo has managed to illustrate the entire novel by Cervantes with just one picture, because he is not just an artist — he is a master of metamorphosis. In his portrait of Don Quixote, the events of the two-volume novel are encrypted: here is Sancho Panza, Dulcinea, the hero’s "visions", as well as the windmills and monsters, with which the brave knight fought.

Don Quixote, created by different artists, excites pity, surprise, laughter or smile. But the main thing is that this reckless and noble hidalgo, sincere and graceful, ready to fight for justice and truth, has earned universal deep respect and sincere sympathy.

"Oh, Don Quixote of La Mancha, so sweet and dear to my heart, I love him so much,"
F. Chaliapin.