With a total of 17 dead and sever..." /> Short history about caricature in France – French Quarter Magazine


Published on January 24th, 2015 | by Isabelle Karamooz, Founder of FQM


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 tradition of satire can be traced back to portraits in ancient Egypt. Photo by mediterranee-antique.fr

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.


The king of France became the target of cartoonists. Louis XVI’s murder is preceded by images of his symbolic killing. Photo by Histoire Pour Tous.

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.


Honoré Daumier, 19th century caricaturist. Photo by goldmarkart.com.

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


About the Author

is originally from Versailles, France. She always wanted to see the world, which she did starting at 17 when she had the fortunate opportunity to study abroad in Rhonda, Spain. She traveled the world from Hong Kong to Taiwan, from Ireland to Austria, to Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Monaco, and discovered the entire countries of Italy and Morocco. She really feels like a citizen of the world. She finally settled several years in Los Angeles where she worked at the French Consulate of Los Angeles. Passionate about the Arts and History, she earned a Bachelor's degree in History from the University of California Berkeley and studied for a Master program in education at the University of Southern California, then she went on to teach French to aspiring UNLV and CSN students in Nevada. She is the founder and Editor in chief of French Quarter Magazine, in which she writes, interviews people in a wide range of circumstances, pitches story ideas to writers and journalists, takes photos, and is currently writing her first translated work, which spans the life of Coco Chanel and is filled with adventure, intrigue, history and love.

One Response to Short history about caricature in France

  1. Forthcoming Illustrated Catalogue Raisonné of
    La Caricature, 1830-1835
    by Charles Philipon

    ISBN: 1-55660-348-7 ISBN 13: 978-1-55660-348-8

    La Caricature was the 19th Century equivalent and the precursor of Charlie Hebdo. The editor Charles Philipon employed the major satirical artists of the mid-19th Century notably Daumier, Grandville, E. Forest, Charlet, Bellangé and Gavarni. It appeared for five years, between 1830-1835.

    The main subjects of the caricatures were Louis Philippe and his entourage of July Monarchy politicians. Louis Philipe, son of the Duke of Orléans, came to power after the 1830 Revolution as the Citizen King. However, he was not amused by the caricatures and once put Daumier in prison for 6 months, before suppressing the whole publication in 1835. He became more and more authoritarian and was finally forced to abdicate during the 1848 Revolution.

    The plates are numbered 1-524, but approximately 62 are double sheets so there are actually 462 separate prints.

    Georges Vicaire catalogued the 251 issues and 524 plates in 1895. However they have never been reproduced in a catalogue nor has there been an English language discussion or catalogue of the corpus of prints

    Alan Wofsy Fine Arts of San Francisco (www.art-books.com) will be publishing the first illustrated catalogue of all the lithographs that were published in La Caricature, 1830-1835 in the Spring of 2017.

    All of the works are described in French and English and are arranged in the order they appeared in the original publication. There is an index by artist and the catalogue by Georges Vicaire from 1895 is also included. Many of the artists who contributed anonymously and were not identified by Vicaire but are now identified. Where there were not descriptions of the plates in the original publication (about 60 of the 462) , this new edition now provides French descriptions.

    There are essays in English are by Gordon Norton Ray and Edwin De Turck Bechtel and in French by Henri Beraldi and Georges Vicaire

    The general editor and designer is Corine Labridy-Stofle, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Melissa Bender, PhD, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, and Joanna Oseman, a professional translator, have provided insightful English language descriptions of each of the caricatures.

    Alan Hyman, the editor of many catalogues raisonnés, is the Lektor.

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