Durand, Godefroy (1832-1896)

Durand, Godefroy (1832-1896)
Durand, Godefroy (1832-1896)

Illustrator Godefroy Durand was at the forefront of periodical press illustration in France and Britain during the 19th century.

The illustrated periodical press became popular across the 18th and 19th centuries as new methods of combining text and illustration became discovered. France and Britain in particular were hubs in which new periodicals covered events with supplementary images. The rise of the mass printing press enabled this medium of news dissemination to reach a wider range of people as it became cheaper to produce periodicals. In Britain, The Illustrated London News, established in 1842, was the foremost publication of its kind.

Durand was therefore entering into a market which was incredibly lucrative for those who had the skill to produce first-class illustrations to compliment news articles. Significantly, there is evidence to suggest people not only collected these publications for their articles but to also keep and display copies of the illustrations inside. Therefore, they had to be of the highest quality execution and aesthetically appealing.

Durand was certainly skilled. His works were said to have left viewers ‘immediately captivated by the ease of their arrangement and the flexibility of their execution.’ Indeed, in covering a wide range of topics and events, Durand is able to convey character and energy in each illustration. A criminal in court peers with fraught anxiety whilst the jury watch on, captivated by events. Gloriously sumptuous interiors are depicted with accuracy of composition and perspective, the detail of rococo lavishness translated into ink and paper.

Part of the purpose of periodical illustrations was to convey the sense of an event all in one image. They were formed by mixing together multiple accounts until an aesthetically and emotionally suitable image was created. As a result, Durand had to also become a storyteller in his work. He created characters who came to symbolise certain events. The terrible conditions of the London slums are swamped with sultry figures with pallid faces cut with sharp expressions of misery. They huddle together with a homogeneity mirrored in their stances and their clothing, all draped in tattered and torn rags. Individualism does not matter, the purpose of this illustration is to convey the horror of life in the slums.

Durand combined a skilled, detailed hand with a simplicity of form which lends itself to the black and white print of periodical publishing. This paid off for him incredibly well, and he found employment at a multitude of different publications. In France he worked for Le Monde Illustré and L’Univers Illustré among others. Most significantly, however, he moved to Britain and worked for The Graphic.

The Graphic was established in 1869 to rival the Illustrated London News. The publication did incredibly well, selling across Britain and the United States, and finding, amongst its fans, the likes of Vincent Van Gogh. Durand was the first and foremost illustrator for the publication, executing illustrations for their weekly publication as well as special editions for holidays such as Christmas.

The exposure this publication granted him allowed him a position of prominence that he used to benefit others. On a number of occasions, he exhibited his art to raise funds for victims of the Franco-Prussian war of the 1870s. He was also part of a drive to raise funds for the family of a young illustrator who had tragically died in sudden circumstances. Not only could working for the press benefit Durand, but he ensured it benefitted others, too.

Durand’s accomplishments in illustration also saw him exhibit with the Royal Society of British Artists. Royal attention, too, followed from the clear skill he demonstrated for memorialising events. Queen Victoria commissioned him to depict a scene of her daughter Princess Louise’s marriage in 1889. Indeed, Durand spent most of his working life in Britain, establishing himself as one of its foremost illustrators and taking on the responsibility of conveying the country’s news in an appealing and popular manner.

His legacy lives on in the many editions of The Graphic which have been digitised and archived online.


Born in Düsseldorf, Germany.


Moved to Paris, France.


Moved to London, Britain. Began working at ‘The Graphic.’


Participated in the ‘Exhibition for the Benefit of the Distressed Peasantry of France’ at the Suffolk Street Gallery to benefit those affected by the Franco-Prussian War.


Exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists.


Exhibited at the Society of French Artists


Wife Emily Godefroid Durand died.


Died in Paris.

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