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Political caricatures from the French Revolution to May 1968
Political caricatures from the French Revolution to May 1968

Before the French Revolution, caricatures were discreet, clandestine and hushed up by the monarchy, and were sold illicitly. The Revolution changed things and allowed for the blossoming of a serial print market where caricatures flourished. The revolutionary movement guaranteed artists greater freedom, even though censorship, abolished by Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, was later reinstated. The production of graphical satire did not stop, however. Far from disappearing under the Consulate, and then the Empire, it laid the foundations that supported the large-scale production of satire during the period from 1830 to 1870. Honoré Daumier, Jean-Jacques Grandville and Paul Gavarni were particularly famous. The end of the 19th century in France saw both the coming of the objective press and the development of the popular press. Despite this, the satirical press continued: from 1901 to 1914, the Assiette au Beurre, a 16-page colour weekly publication with anarchist tendencies constituted the pinnacle of social and moral caricature.

In the 20th century, May 1968 gave the younger generation the freedom to express their ideas through an alternative and parallel press such as Hara-Kiri and Charlie Hebdo, adopting a provocative tone targeting the right-minded public and their values. Things began to change, however: caricatures were gradually replaced by editorial cartoons, and the training, status and attitude of editorial cartoonists changed too. They wanted to be considered as illustrators and journalists.

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