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French Caricaturists Sharpen Their Wit on the 19th-Century Parisian Art Establishment

Comic Art: The Paris Salon in Caricature
At the Getty November 18, 2003-February 15, 2004

October 7, 2003

Los Angeles—The famed caricaturists of 19th-century Paris, a group that included many of the leading graphic artists of the day, sharpened their poison pens each year to satirize the serious art selected for display in the official exhibition, called the Salon. They also took aim at the public and critics who supported the Salon, and the "avant-garde" artists who were trying to break away from it. A new exhibition, Comic Art: The Paris Salon in Caricature, at the Getty Center from November 18, 2003 through February 15, 2004, examines the wit, wisdom, and scathing commentary of these graphic satirists during their heyday, from the 1830s through the turn of the century.

Presented by the Getty Research Institute, the exhibition is the first of its kind in the United States. It will feature approximately 70 works selected from a collection of more than 900 French caricatures acquired by the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute in 1993, comprising lithographs, drawings, tearsheets, and engravings from the years 1839 through 1904. These caricatures will be displayed along with bound satirical and general-interest journals of the period and other related material from the collections of the Getty Research Institute. Exhibition labels will point out the link between the 19th-century caricatures with specific objects or genres of painting and sculpture in the Getty Museum.

The exhibition covers a period of profound change for European art, as movements like Impressionism and Art Nouveau took hold. The caricaturists' main target remained the Salon and its focus on the staid old-line art establishment, but innovative "avant-garde" artists also took their share of satirical punches.  Edouard Manet and Gustave Courbet were among the popular targets.

Works of art were often the subject of caricature, as were art dealers, auction houses, galleries, and their eager customers—the entire spectrum of the art world in 1800s France. Well-received or critically reviewed, popular or unpopular—everything and everyone was fair game to the Paris satirists. The caricaturists' mocking cartoons, published in prints or in popular newspapers and journals, also critiqued society's morals and the state's political ambitions, and carried out crucial aesthetic debates.

"The underlying theme of the exhibition is that these caricatures reveal much about the critical and public reception of both conservative and avant-garde art in 19th-century France," says exhibition curator JoAnne Paradise, senior collections curator at the Getty Research Institute. "The exhibition will introduce the Salon as an event, and delve into the caricatural salon as a genre, exploring its history and its place in art journalism," says exhibition researcher Margo Bistis.

The exhibition will include a selection of works by the famed Realist artist and caricaturist Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), as well as satirical cartoons and prints by Henri Meyer, Gilbert Randon, Albert Robida, Paul Iribe, Léonce Petit, Léon Bec, and the pseudonymous caricaturists Bertall, Cham, André Gill, Nadar, Caran D’Ache, Stop, and Loÿs, among others. Documentary images of the Salon itself by Gustave Le Gray and other photographers will also be on display.

Note to Editors: Images available upon request.
For more information, the public can call 310-440-7300 or visit

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