Graphic Arts Displays

Caricatures and Satirical Drawings from the Musée d’Orsay Collections

Rooms 8b-8c

Frantisek KupkaReligions, artwork for the cover© Adagp - RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Thierry Le Mage
This display invites you to take a look at the caricatures, humorous and satirical drawings from the Musée d'Orsay collection, some of which are being exhibited for the first time.
With works taken solely from the museum's collections, it does not claim to offer a representative overview of caricature from 1848 to 1914.

Rather, it presents a selection of drawings by caricaturists such as Cham, Sem, Cappiello, Hermann-Paul and Caran d'Ache, the "libertinism of the imagination" of artists such as Puvis de Chavannes, Carpeaux and Garnier, and drawings by creative artists who broke down the barriers between "great art" and "popular art": Daumier, Ensor and Toulouse-Lautrec, among others.
In spite of Daumier's pre-eminence in the art of caricature, his presence here is more modest, as his drawings in the Orsay collection – a collection made up solely of originals and not prints – include few caricatures.
Similarly, the Dreyfus affair, at the centre of a fierce clash of images between pro and anti Dreyfus illustrators, is evoked quite simply, through the opposing standpoints of Forain and Hermann-Paul.

Sem Gabriel Astruc, the Magpie who brought Song© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Adrien Didierjean
Satire in the visual arts is superbly expressed through caricature, a hybrid and heterogeneous art with indeterminate boundaries, which could be defined as: a way of revealing laughable or unpleasant aspects of a subject or situation by exaggerating the features.
There was an unprecedented boom in caricature in the 19th century, fueled by the expansion of the illustrated press to a broad public.
Illustrators took their contemporaries as subjects for their graphic eloquence, presenting a humorous, cruel or bitter tableau of the mores of the time, of the art world, and in particular, of the Salons, with the development of the "Salon caricature" genre.

It was the great era of caricatures of famous people of the time, particularly those in the world of the theatre.
At the turn of the century, anarchist artists showed their commitment in violently antimilitaristic works opposing the arms race and the entry into the war of the European powers, and confirmed their anti-clericalism in the context of the separation of Church and State.

"Born of the casual expressiveness of the graphic medium" (W. Hofmann), caricature offers a moment of amusement and creative freedom where bold graphics and new forms are introduced.

Kupka’s Drawings for L'Assiette au beurre

Before becoming a pioneer of abstract painting, Kupka was a satirical illustrator who contributed regularly, between 1901 and 1907, to the weekly review L’Assiette au beurre. This anarchistic, anti-clerical and anti-militaristic magazine called on the great satirical illustrators of the time, including Jossot, Steinlen, Hermann-Paul and Vallotton. Kupka did all the artwork for three entire issues: L'Argent (Money) (no 41, 11/1/1902), Religions (no 162, 7 May 1904) andLa Paix (Peace) (no 177, 20 August 1904).

These drawings with their great aesthetic qualities are still as relevant as ever. They show that it was less dangerous in 1904 to caricature fanaticism or to give the gods of any religion a face than it is today, when the Charlie Hebdo illustrators were assassinated in Paris for producing drawings in the same vein as Kupka.

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