FRENCH KISS IN THE DERRIERE: SKINNING THE RATS

He whose image we offer you,
And whose art, subtle above all others’,
Teaches us to laugh at ourselves,
That man, reader, is a sage.
–Charles Baudelaire, Verses in Honor of the Portrait of Monsieur Honoré Daumier

''This lithograph, which chillingly demonstrates the foul murder of innocent residents, was actually produced and sold to raise money to pay for their fines. Philipon and Daumier would do this fairly frequently (Daumier produce lithographs that would be sold to pay off their fines).''

''This lithograph, which chillingly demonstrates the foul murder of innocent residents, was actually produced and sold to raise money to pay for their fines. Philipon and Daumier would do this fairly frequently (Daumier produce lithographs that would be sold to pay off their fines).''

The technique of lithography, invented in 1798, gave artists the opportunity of drawing directly on to the printing surface and allowed a much wider range of textures and colours than was possible with etching or engraving . Caricaturists were not slow to exploit the new medium. Foremost among them was the Frenchman Honoré Daumier, whose work dominated this period and who exerted enormous influence worldwide.

Honoré Victorin Daumier  French, 1808-1879  Sight, plate 39 from Types Parisiens, 1839

Honoré Victorin Daumier French, 1808-1879 Sight, plate 39 from Types Parisiens, 1839

There cannot be many personalities of any sort today, let alone artists, who have such potential powers of disruption that even after they die, the police would bother to send an informer alongside the funeral cortege to keep an eye on proceedings in case of trouble. Yet that is precisely what they did in 1880 for Honoré Daumier.In the mid-nineteenth century France was in political and social upheaval, and Paris was racked by numerous revolutions. In 1830 revolt brought down King Charles X and brought to power the “Citizen King” Louis-Philippe. A year later, Parisians were already disillusioned by the new king’s ignorance and corruption.

''Some of Daumier's other classic political cartoons from the time depict the ghosts of the original French Revolution, aghast that the current state of France is what they died for...''

''Some of Daumier's other classic political cartoons from the time depict the ghosts of the original French Revolution, aghast that the current state of France is what they died for...''

Daumier is perhaps best known for his scathing political caricatures, published notably in the journals La Caricature and Le Charivari which  demonstrated how powerful they could be in capturing and contributing to dissent, similar to George Cruickshank in England.  Daumier’s acerbic qualities extended well beyond the bounds of many of his harshest contemporary equivalents, and turned him from simply an observer into a player – sometimes at considerable personal risk or pain; his was at heart a revolutionary and his politics were not far afield from the libertarian anarchist Proudhon.

www.metmuseum.com ''Daumier highlighted socioeconomic distinctions in the newly modernized urban environment in a group of paintings executed around 1864 that illustrate the experience of modern rail travel in first-, second-, and third-class train compartments. In The First-Class Carriage (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), there is almost no physical or psychological contact among the four well-dressed figures, whereas The Third-Class Carriage (29.100.129) is tightly packed with an anonymous crowd of working-class men and women. In the foreground, Daumier isolates three generations of an apparently fatherless family, conveying the hardship of their daily existence through the weary poses of the young mother and sleeping boy. Though clearly of humble means, their postures, clothing, and facial features are rendered in as much detail as those of the first-class travelers.  Source: Nineteenth-Century French Realism | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art''

www.metmuseum.com ''Daumier highlighted socioeconomic distinctions in the newly modernized urban environment in a group of paintings executed around 1864 that illustrate the experience of modern rail travel in first-, second-, and third-class train compartments. In The First-Class Carriage (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), there is almost no physical or psychological contact among the four well-dressed figures, whereas The Third-Class Carriage (29.100.129) is tightly packed with an anonymous crowd of working-class men and women. In the foreground, Daumier isolates three generations of an apparently fatherless family, conveying the hardship of their daily existence through the weary poses of the young mother and sleeping boy. Though clearly of humble means, their postures, clothing, and facial features are rendered in as much detail as those of the first-class travelers. Source: Nineteenth-Century French Realism | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art''

As a caricaturist, Daumier stands head and shoulders above all others of the nineteenth-century. He had the gift of expressing the whole character of a man through physiognomy, and the essence of his satire lay in his power to interpret mental folly in terms of physical absurdity. He had a broad, free and spontaneous style marked by a directness of vision and total absence of  sentimentality.Yet, he was deeply interested in people, especially the underprivileged. Although he never made a commercial success of his art,caricature, then later paintings and sculpture, he was appreciated by the discriminating and numbered among his friends and admirers Delacroix, Corot, Forain, and Baudelaire.Edgar Degas was among the artists who collected his works.

Daumier. Gargantua

Daumier. Gargantua

Daumier began work as a graphic artist, having learnt lithography techniques in 1830, and been employed on Charivari and La Caricature (1830-35) until the latter’s suppression by the government, for its anti-government political cartoons.He was an ardent Republican and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in 1832 for his attacks on Louis-Philippe, whom he represented as `Gargantua swallowing bags of gold extorted from the people’. What should have been limited to a suspended sentence

turned into a real one after he produced a second cartoon just as vicious as the first.

Etienne Carjat  French, 1828-1906  Portrait of Honoré Daumier, 1862

Etienne Carjat French, 1828-1906 Portrait of Honoré Daumier, 1862

On the suppression of political satire in 1835 he began to work for Charivari and turned to satire of social life, but at the time of the 1848 revolution he returned to political subjects. He is said to have made more than 4,000 lithographs, wishing each time that the one he had just made could be his last. In the last years of his life he was almost blind and was saved from destitution by Corot. After 1848, he produced watercolours which continued this vein, parodying the Courts of Justice, and depicting the existence of the poor. He created two memorable characters in Robert Macaire, the corrupt and money obsessed bourgeois, and Ratapoil (skinned rat), the sinister government agent.

Daumier

Daumier

He also experimented with oils including several on the theme of Don Quixote, although many of his pictures remained unfinished, producing loosely handled, thickly impasto works of strong chiaroscuro, such as ”Third Class Carriage”. He also produced sculpture which showed the same roughness of handling and concern for social issues such as the Ratapoil, bronzes.  Not surprisingly, He was also greatly admired by the 20th century Expressionists, who applauded both his radical stance and the freedom with which he used materials.

It must be remembered that the early 19th century was also the era of the mass development of the press. Hitherto, humorous or satirical drawings had only appeared as individual works of art or as limited-edition prints—often hand-coloured—available only in specialist shops in large cities such as London. In the 19th century, however, with the advent of lithography and woodblock engraving, cartoons and caricatures began to appear in newspapers and magazines, which were widely disseminated and sometimes also used colour printing techniques.

In France the cartoonist Charles Philipon, generally acknowledged as the father of the modern humorous magazine, founded La Caricature in 1830. In its pages, he and Daumier, among others,such as Raffet, Grandville and Deveria  mercilessly lampooned Louis-Philippe.  On another occasion, Daumier drew Louis-Philippe sitting on a commode and Philipon himself once depicted him as a pearwhich led  to Philipon being imprisoned. Then in 1832 Philipon began the less political but even more successful magazine LeCharivari, with contributions by Daumier, Paul Gavarni, Jean-Ignace-Isodire Grandville , and others. When in 1835 French censorship laws prevented direct attacks on individuals, the satirists took to using type-figures, Daumier’s characters Ratapoil and Robert Macaire being particularly noteworthy.

The Parisian public rightly admired Honoré Daumier as the newspaper caricaturist who so perceptively skewered their daily lives, but they never accepted him as a painter. Daumier died blind and a pauper without ever having received a painting commission.

''Robert Macaire: A Chameleon and a Critic celebrates Daumier's most popular fictional character, Robert Macaire, a smooth talking, plump-bellied, pseudo=stylish conman who appeared in over 140 of Daumier's caricatures in the 1830s and '40s. Considered to be a precursor to the modern-day comic strip, each new scenario presents Macaire and his sidekick Bertrand taking on a different role in order to confuse their victims, to criticize French society, and to amuse the reader.  ''

''Robert Macaire: A Chameleon and a Critic celebrates Daumier's most popular fictional character, Robert Macaire, a smooth talking, plump-bellied, pseudo=stylish conman who appeared in over 140 of Daumier's caricatures in the 1830s and '40s. Considered to be a precursor to the modern-day comic strip, each new scenario presents Macaire and his sidekick Bertrand taking on a different role in order to confuse their victims, to criticize French society, and to amuse the reader. ''

”Except for the searching truthfulness of his vision and the powerful directness of his brushwork, it would be difficult to recognize the creator of Robert Macaire, of Les Bas bleus, Les Bohémiens de Paris, and the Masques, in the paintings of “Christ and His Apostles” at the Ryks Museum in Amsterdam, or in his “Good Samaritan”, “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza”, “Christ Mocked”, or even in the sketches in the Ionides Collection at South Kensington. But as a painter, Daumier, one of the pioneers of naturalism, was before his time, and did not meet with success until in 1878, a year before his death, when Durand-Ruel collected his works for exhibition at his galleries and demonstrated the full range of the genius of the man who has been well called the Michelangelo of caricature. At the time of this exhibition Daumier, totally blind, was living in a cottage at Valmondois, which was placed at his disposal by Corot, and where he breathed his last in 1879. An important exhibition of his works was held at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1900.”

''The Uprising was most likely inspired by the Revolution of 1848 in Paris. In February of that year, the “Citizen King,” Louis-Philippe, was overthrown. A violent class struggle known as the “Bloody June Days” followed the coup. During these three days of fighting, nearly ten thousand people were killed or wounded and eleven thousand were taken prisoner.''

''The Uprising was most likely inspired by the Revolution of 1848 in Paris. In February of that year, the “Citizen King,” Louis-Philippe, was overthrown. A violent class struggle known as the “Bloody June Days” followed the coup. During these three days of fighting, nearly ten thousand people were killed or wounded and eleven thousand were taken prisoner.''

Similar events were transpiring in Britain. The Northern Looking-Glass, which had been republished as a monthly sheet of caricatures by Thomas Maclean in 1830, paved the way for Gilbert à Beckett’s Figaro in London (1831), with its maxim that “Satire should, like polish’d razor keen / Wound with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen”, and ultimately led to Henry Mayhew’s hugely successful magazine Punch: or the London Charivari (1841), modelled at first on Philipon’s journal, as reflected in its subtitle.

The second half of the 19th century saw a flowering of first-class talent in cartoons and caricatures. In France—appearing in Le Rire (1894), Le Journal Amusant, and other publications—were Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaspard-Félix Tournachoy (under the pseudonym Nadar), André Gill (under the pseudonym Louis Gosset de Guines), Gustave Doré, and the Russian-born master of the caption-less drawing, Caran D’Ache (Emmanuel Poiré). Owing something in style to the German painter and poet Wilhelm Busch and others, the work of Caran D’Ache had considerable impact on the more open, less cross-hatched style of drawing that would come to characterize 20th-century cartoons, comic strips, and animation. A typical example of his histoires sans paroles, stories without words is “The Cow and the Train”. This comprises seven almost identical full-face images of a cow standing in a field, seen, as it were, from the viewpoint of an invisible passenger in a train. Over the seven frames the cow’s eyes move from left to right as the train passes by and in the eighth frame it lowers its head and resumes grazing.

Daumier: ''Ratapoil''

Daumier: ''Ratapoil''

The birth of popular art art forms was actually a coherent development.In rejecting the idealized classicism of academic art and the exotic themes of Romanticism,this Realism was based on direct observation of the modern world. In keeping with Gustave Courbet’s statement in 1861 that “painting is an essentially concrete art and can only consist in the representation of real and existing things,” Realists recorded in often gritty detail the present-day existence of humble people, paralleling related trends in the naturalist literature of Émile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, and Gustave Flaubert. The elevation of the working class into the realms of high art and literature coincided with Pierre Proudhon’s socialist philosophies and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, which urged a proletarian uprising.  For artists like Daumier, he could attack the indulgences, pretensions and fallibilities of the middle-class, yet they remained an enigma to him; that this new popular art was one part promoter of their ideology while acting as social critique.

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