Graphic Witness: visual arts & social commentary
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Tusche, tone and stone: 19th C. news illustration
L'Assiette au Beurre #46: February, 1902
A special issue on the adulteration of milk
["Les Empoisonneurs Patentés: les Falsificateurs de Lait"]

cover L'Assiette au Beurre often devoted a whole issue to a specific topic. Here, the topic is the corruption involved in the marketing of milk that is unfit for consumption, and the public health consequences of this trade. The front cover explains that the proceeds from the sale of this special triple-sized issue will go to benefit the "Ligue pour la Défense de la Vie humaine."

The topic of milk adulteration was not new in 1902, or confined to France. Thomas Nast and others had been outraged about it in the United States at least half a century earlier. For this particular issue of the magazine [February, 1902] all the artist "collaborateurs" contributed.

A selection from the 48 pages of images and captions from the original special issue is presented here. Each image deals with some aspect of the adulteration of milk -- milk that has been watered down, milk from sick and dying cows -- and its consequences -- the deaths of countless babies.

The artists often provide dark, essentially absurd humor, to aid in the exploration of the more serious and otherwise grotesque aspects of the subject. Close attention is paid to the depiction of body language; a wealth of subtle detail and lively composition enriches the story each image relates (for example, see left: both the stance and the placement of the husband in the Wély image).

The work is listed in the same order as found in the original issue, beginning with a drawing by Adolphe Willette on the inside front cover.

Select the artist's name in the list below to see the image described. Return to this page using the browser 'back' button. More accurate and/or more fully translated captions are anticipated, but meanwhile, corrections are welcome. Mail to graphicwitness@gmail.com
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Tusche, tone and stone: 19th C. news illustration