“L'un des hommes les plus importants, je ne dirai pas seulement de la caricature, mais encore de l'art moderne. (One of the most important men, I will not say only of caricature, but also of modern art, Charles Baudelaire)
|Honoré Daumier: "The Amateurs" - In this example, one of several set in a studio, the haughty, aloof artist, looking a bit like a collage of Breton, Decamps and Henner, awaits the presumably enthusiastic responses of his visitors (1865)|
Old Egyptian papyri, Greek vases, Roman murals, images in medieval churches and cave paintings from the Stone Age as well, in all probability. Caricatures might be around since time immemorial. However, things really got underway, caricature-wise, around the time, when the Industrial Revolution began and reached full steam in the early 1800s with Hogarth acting as pointsman. Many features of actual caricatures were already part of his satirical, moralising and immensely popular pieces and caricaturists like James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank, a generation after Hogarth’s death, lead the way ahead into modern political and socio-political caricature. The French, more often than not chief target of the British caricaturists’ scorn and ridicule, published the first full-fledged satirical magazines, though, out of spite, who knows, but especially “Le Charivari” with its first edition appearing in December 1832 in Paris, set the pace for all subsequent publications, including the better known British “Punch”. And since most of those in power in the France of the July Monarchy had the same underdeveloped sense of humour as their counterparts before and after elsewhere, one of their best caricaturists had already faced a spell in the tank when he joined the “Charivari’s” staff for poking fun on King Louis Philippe. Four years later, the whole thing was about to get transported to the Devil’s Island when the so-called Roi Citoyen and his court cringers banished political caricature in toto. “Charivari” focussed on the “socio” part of “socio-political caricature” and it became the sujet Honoré Daumier excelled in: holding up a mirror to the bourgeoisie. Starting with his series “Robert Macaire” in “Le Charivari” he began to work out the comic stereotypical exaggeration of a part to typify the sum in earnest. The good people of France were narrowed down to about 100 ridiculous archetypes and Daumier satirised political life on the eve of the Revolution of 1848 with a brilliant masquerade and without actually tackling the issues and principal political players of the day. Honoré Daumier was a master of his trade and the slave speech of satire.
|Honoré Daumier: "Un Guerrier Electrise"|
- A public demonstration of the powers of electricity, with a French official as subject
|Honoré Daumier: "Le Wagon de troisième classe (The third-class carriage, 1864)|
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