The Political Eye: Nineteenth-Century French Caricature and the Mass Media

January 30, 2009 - April 27, 2009
Kemper Art Museum, Teaching Gallery


In the wake of the expansion of the rights of freedom of speech in France in the early 1830s, again in the later 1860s, and finally again in the Third Republic, the vibrant and expressive art form of caricature emerged, finding its venue in political journals, cafés, and the windows of newly fashionable printers shops in Paris. Artists gave form to their opinions in a broad range of public images--lithographic caricatures, satirical journals, illustrated books, political posters--all arms of an emergent mass media that shaped the public discourse of the middle classes on matters both political and social. The Political Eye: Nineteenth-Century French Caricature and the Mass Media features a selection of thirty-five of the most powerful of these prints and drawings.

The Political Eye is curated by Elizabeth Childs, associate professor and chair in the department of art history and archaeology, and Steve Hause, senior scholar in the humanities. The exhibition will be used as a teaching tool in Art and Politics in Belle Epoque France, a seminar co-taught by professors Childs and Hause in spring 2009. The seminar will draw Washington University students from art history and archaeology, history, and the Interdisciplinary Project of the Humanities (for which it will serve as the junior colloquium).

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Image credit:

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), Divan Japonais, from the series Les Mâitres de l'Affiche, 1893. Lithograph, 15 3/4 x 11 1/2". Gift of Melissa Henyan Redler, 1981.