La Caricature

After the July-Revolution and the reinstatement of the Freedom of the Press, CHARLES PHILIPON (1800-1862) recognised the growing desire of the public for information. In 1830, he founded the political satirical illustrated paper LA CARICATURE, succeeding LA SILHOUETTE, which only had a short publication period of 14 months. PHILIPON’s brother-in-law GABRIEL AUBERT was responsible for the distribution and sale of the publication.

LA CARICATURE can be considered the first political and satirical French newspaper of that period combining politics and contemporary art. The format of the 4-page paper was 36 x 27 cm and it was customary to insert two, sometimes three, lithographs in each edition. They were usually folded, sometimes hand-colored, and printed on white wove paper without text on the verso. On occasions, an oversize print was added. The text was written by PHILIPON, BALZAC and others. GRANDVILLE was responsible for the masthead and the advertisement poster. In total, there appeared 251 editions of LA CARICATURE from Nov.4, 1830 to Aug.27, 1835 featuring 524 caricatures of various artists, of which 91 by Daumier. Each edition fluctuated between 750 and 2’000 copies.

It is interesting to note that the annual subscription price of 52 Francs for the illustrated paper was relatively high. It corresponded to two thirds of the monthly income of a Parisian worker. PHILIPON justified this price with the contributions of devoted journalists and gifted artists which gave the paper a very high standard both artistically and politically. For readers who were interested but unable to afford the hefty subscription price, there was a daily copy posted in the window of Aubert’s shop at Galerie Véro-Dodat (in the artistic and cultural center of Paris, close to the Palais Royal). This attracted the public who absorbed eagerly the latest developments on censorship, law trials, punishments, subjects that gave the artists the possibility to produce satirical illustrations.

Between 1830 and 1832, LA CARICATURE appeared as LA CARICATURE POLITIQUE. It was then continued as LA CARICATURE until 1835. As of 1832, PHILIPON and AUBERT founded LE CHARIVARI. At the same time, they created a special edition of LA CARICATURE: L’ASSOCIATION MENSUELLE POUR LA LIBERTÉ DE LA PRESSE. The proceeds of this edition were supposed to pay for the numerous law cases which the French Government imposed against the paper. The monthly dividend for the shareholders consisted of a lithograph, which they could acquire for 1 Franc. The size of the lithograph was ca. 36,5 x 53,2 cm, printed on white paper. Apart from some rare samples on China paper, the print was otherwise not for sale. Some of DAUMIER’s most important lithographs are part of that special edition. The last one appeared in the final edition of October 1834. It was DAUMIER’s most famous lithograph “Rue Transnonain” (DR 135). The 4 preceding prints are also from DAUMIER: DR 131 to 134.

When some of the subscribers started collecting their CARICATURE prints, the management of AUBERT suggested a method for treating the fold caused by the binding of the newspaper, a “treatment” which can still be applied today.

While the CARICATURE initially was not very different from the SILHOUETTE, the increasing tension between the press and the political system slowly changed the tone and the quality of caricatures. The CARICATURE became more and more poignant, thus provoking the King’s men to react. It was just a matter of time until censorship closed down this paper. As in the aftermath of the assassination attempt against King Louis-Philippe in September 1835, restrictive press legislation was introduced, and LA CARICATURE had to close down. The CHARIVARI, at that time already in its third year of existence, was ready to take over.