Musée d'Orsay: Journalists


"Thieves, sneaks or journalists. Such are the misdeeds of our civilisation", wrote Théophile Gautier.

A self-learner and an adventurer, a prophet and a magician, a failed writer: such was the portrait of the journalist in the first decades of the nineteenth century. There was fascination and aversion for an occupation that at the time was not considered as a full-blown trade. Someone who admitted to exercise the occupation of journalist was nonetheless a lawyer, a doctor or a man of letters. Theophraste Renaudot (1584-1653), founder of La Gazette and the first journalist, was a doctor. Chateaubriand, Balzac, Gautier, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Vallès and Zola were writers. Yet the stereotypes according to which journalists could certainly write, but are never great writers persisted. There was no glory in that…

The media testify implicitly to the development of industrial civilisation, the triumph of progress, modernity and democracy. Some were afraid of an industrial literature, a literature for all, spreading all about, vulgarised excessively by means of publication, reproduction and multiplication.

The trade of journalism evolved continuously, participating fully in the century. It finally came of age at the same time as the modern world. Georges Duroy, the journalist in Bel-Ami, the novel by Guy de Maupassant, was the discreet caricature of the journalist of the 1880s. The evolution and the organisation of journalism went on throughout the century: Rouletabille was to replace Bel-Ami, the reporter to succeed to the journalist, the news of the boulevard to spread to the whole world.


Chantal Georgel, chief curator, Musée d'Orsay

9 December 1986 - 1 March 1987
Musée d'Orsay

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