Published on January 24th, 2015 | by Isabelle Karamooz, Founder of FQM1
Short history about caricature in France
With a total of 17 dead and several wounded, the terrorist attack against the weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, January 7, is an unprecedented blow to the French press. In France, the history of caricature and satirical press has occupied a very special place since the birth of caricature.
The word caricature (from the popular Latin caricare) was used for the first time in the preface to an album of Annibale Carracci in 1646. The word also appears for the first time in Argenson memoirs in 1740.
The deformed treatment of physiognomy is in the tradition of satire and can be traced back to portraits in ancient Egypt, representations on Greek vases, and graffiti covering the walls of Pompeian houses.
In the Middle Ages, the cartoon is very present in both interior and exterior church sculptures or in miniature representations of grotesque, fantastic and symbolic animals.
The first prints, which appear at the end of the fourteenth century, are made on wood. Because of the rigidity of wood it gives rather schematic drawings. Engraving on wood relief is an expensive and slow process: a cartoonist provides a drawing which is then reproduced in a writers workshop on a wooden heart box, resulting in a reduced size of the illustrations, and then printed by a printer. The printing press has allowed for the transmission of knowledge by facilitating the dissemination of pamphlets and images.
Soon, engraving was used for propaganda purposes, especially after the shock of Luther’s reform, starting a systematic challenge to established powers and religious authorities. Engravings could be inserted into pamphlets or posters accompanied by virulent texts or songs. Thus Henry III was the victim of a campaign caricatures before his assassination.
In France, the art of caricature began to bloom in the early 18th century. During the Revolution of 1789, books, illustrated magazines of caricatures and weekly newspapers multiplied.
The king of France became the target of cartoonists. Louis XVI’s murder is preceded by images of his symbolic killing.
Under the July Monarchy, illustrated periodicals would greatly expand to the public. The fate of the political cartoon will now be united with that of the press. The best known are « Caricature » (created in 1830), and the « Charivari » (1831), founded by Philipon who also published Daumier’s lithographs. Thereafter, Daumier will be thrown in prison for his uncompromising portrait of King Louis-Philippe.
The Dreyfus affair was another major event in the history of caricature. The satirical press engaged in battle with those opposed to Dreyfus. Newspapers were even created for the occasion including « Psst » (anti-dreyfus) and « The Whistle » (Dreyfus).
During the events of May 1968, the freedom of expression is put forward and emphasized with the creation of the Hara-Kiri in 1968 and Charlie-Hebdo in 1970, enabling a younger generation to express themselves in an alternative press.
There has been a change, however. Press drawings will gradually replace the caricature and as the training, status and practices of cartoonists evolve. They call themselves cartoonists-journalists.
Header photo : http://opinionatedart.com
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