Past masters of graphic satire use well-honed drawing skills to comment insightfully on the complex impact of historical events and social conditions.
Napoleon’s Decisive Moment
James Gillray, the leading caricaturist of Britain’s late-eighteenth-century golden age of satire, shows Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) striding forth to seize control in a coup d’état on November 10, 1799, by ousting members of the Directory, France’s post-revolution government. In this print, published just days after, Gillray distorts the features of the soldiers, drummer boy, and fleeing figures but does not caricature Napoleon, whose calm and commanding appearance amid the upheaval befits a figure destined to govern as dictator.
James Gillray (1756–1815). Exit libertè a la Francois! or Buonaparte Closing the Farce of Egalité, at St. Cloud near Paris Novr. 10th 1799. [London]: H. Humphrey, 1799. Hand-colored etching. Art Wood gift/purchase, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.00.00) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-07510]
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States of Emotion
A man in a tall black hat gazes longingly at coins displayed behind a window in this scene by Honoré Daumier, the acknowledged master of French graphic satire. In contrast with Daumier’s renowned caricatures of politically powerful figures, this lithograph represents a penetrating study of a fellow citizen at a revealing moment, one in his series entitled Emotions Parisiennes. Using his distinctive, expressive line, Daumier portrays the somber, self-contained figure with pursed lips and melancholy gaze, imbuing the man’s form with a timeless vulnerability. The drawing’s title means “Gold is a myth for those who have not a penny.”
Honoré Daumier (1808–1879). Emotions Parisiennes. L’or est une chimère—pour ceux qui n’ont pas le sou. [Paris]: Au Bureau du Charivari. Published in Le Charivari, October 26, 1839. Hand-colored lithograph. Art Wood gift/purchase, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.00.00) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-07529]
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Enduring Symbols of Empire
In this depiction of a lion leaping toward a tiger that has attacked a woman and baby, John Tenniel refers to the revenge the British inflicted on India for killing innocent European women and children during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Tenniel was a British illustrator and political cartoonist whose work commented on British politics and society during the latter half of the nineteenth century. He carefully crafted this political cartoon based on a lost, earlier version originally published in 1857 in Punch, a periodical that he served for many years as chief cartoonist. This famous drawing helped popularize the lion as a modern symbol of the British Empire in cartoons.
Sir John Tenniel (1820–1914). The British Lion’s Revenge on the Bengal Tiger, 1870. Copy of artist’s first version published in Punch in August 1857. Watercolor and gouache on paper. Swann Fund Purchase, 2009. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.00.00) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-19308]
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