Long before Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh was sentenced to 25 lashings for drawing a parliament member in a soccer jersey, 19th-century caricaturist Honoré Daumier and his colleagues at the weekly Paris journal La Caricature endured prison sentences, fines, and litigation for their scathing portraits of king Louis-Philippe I of France, who came to power after the Revolution of 1830.
The Cantor Arts Center presents 50 of these pioneering satirical works in “When Artists Attack the King: Honoré Daumier and La Caricature, 1830–1835,” which opens August 1. The exhibition, drawn entirely from the collection of the Cantor Arts Center, also features issues of La Caricature and large Daumier lithographs published for L’Association Mensuelle, a monthly print subscription.
During the reign of Louis Philippe, Charles Philipon launched the comic journal, La Caricature. Daumier joined its staff, which included such powerful artists as Devéria, Raffet and Grandville, and started upon his pictorial campaign of satire, targeting the foibles of the bourgeoisie, the corruption of the law and the incompetence of a blundering government. His caricature of the king as Gargantua led to Daumier's imprisonment for six months at Ste Pelagie in 1832. Soon after, the publication of La Caricature was discontinued, but Philipon provided a new field for Daumier's activity when he founded the Le Charivari.
Louis Philippe as Gargantua
Around the mid 1840's Daumier started publishing his famous caricatures depicting members of the legal profession, known as 'Les Gens de Justice', a scathing satire about judges, defendants, attorneys and corrupt, greedy lawyers in general. A number of extremely rare albums appeared on white paper, covering 39 different legal themes, of which 37 had previously been published in the Charivari. It is said that Daumier's own experience as an employee in a bailiff's office during his youth may have influenced his rather negative attitude towards the legal profession.
The show’s most provocative prints represent the king as la poire, a bulbous pear. But the artists mercilessly lampooned everything about the July Monarchy, as Louis-Philippe’s reign was known—its ministers, their censorship of the press, their role in the inequalities of French society.
The tone in the presented works ranges from mocking to outraged: from depictions of government officials as marionettes to the gruesome aftermath of government troops shooting an entire working-class family after a riot. “Daumier and the other artists at La Caricature were incredible draftsmen, and they all possessed a gift for using wicked humor to cut to the heart of controversial issues,” says Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell, the Cantor’s Burton and Deedee McMurtry Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
Daumier especially has been posthumously recognized for his wit and technical skill, which he demonstrated in his more than 4,000 lithographs as well as his sculptures and the paintings he produced later in life before going blind.
VISITOR INFORMATION: Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is free. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 pm weekdays and all day on weekends. Information: 650-723-4177, museum.stanford.edu