Though a prolific painter, Honoré Daumier was best known for his printmaking, specifically his lithographed caricatures and satirical political cartoons. His paintings, however-which brought him almost no recognition during his lifetime-had little of the bite of social satire that characterized his prints. Instead, his paintings frequently portrayed the everyday life of the working people of Paris; or more timeless themes often based on literature.
Perhaps an ode to his humble beginnings (his father was a glazier in Marseilles), Children Under a Tree depicts three youths looking attentively at a seated figure who appears to be holding a piece of paper or cloth. This dream-like painting shows Daumier’s great sensitivity to light and color harmony and his simplification of forms. Though he had to continue to make lithographs to pay his bills, Daumier found great admirers of his paintings in modern masters such as Édouard Manet and Claude Monet.