L'Assiette au Beurre
(Social Retribution / Capital Punishment)
selections from issue #34
November 23, 1901 by Paul (?) Jouve
"Les Empoisonneurs Patentés: les Falsificateurs de Lait"
#46: February, 1902
Selections from a special issue on the adulteration of milk
La Vision de Hugo 1802-1902
complete issue #47 February 26, 1902
by Th. A. Steinlen
'Le Singe' [The Boss]
complete issue #90
December 20, 1902 by
Adolphe Willette [1857-1926]
Bernard Naudin [1876-1946]
Th. Alexandre Steinlen [1859-1923]
see also l'Assiette au Beurre
in French, courtesy of J. p. Midey
[Théophile] Alexandre Steinlen is a superb example of an artist whose work was considered of major importance to cultural critics in the period, but whose very allegiance to political themes, caricatural styles, and allegorical and narrative genres--all germane to his career as a cartoonist--disqualifies him as a significant modernist for the wilfully amnesiac culture of post-World War I. Rather than finding them subject to the autocracy of oil on canvas, one sees artists purposely working in other media--particularly satirical cartoons--with the aim of reaching a variety of audiences for specifically political purposes; an understanding of the contemporary issues that inspired these cartoons and influenced the left-wing bohemia of Paris before World War I will help to make sense of the involvement of modern artists with anarchist journals such as L'Assiette au beurre and Les Temps nouveaux, and the seriousness of their engagement with political issues of the day.
Anarchism as a political philosophy was without question more influential on turn-of-the-century artists than socialism, in part because anarchist theory specifically called for the participation of artists in social transformation and in part because anarchism at one end of its spectrum stood for an absolute individualism fully compatible with a politicized bohemianism; socialism played a smaller, if still significant, role in prewar French artistic culture. In short, attending to the role of left-wing politics, and specifically anarchism, in prewar Europe presents a telling corrective to myths about modernist art still in force.
Leftist politics characterized the art of prewar France much more than is usually realized. From large-scale salon paintings to political cartoons to avant-garde abstractions, artists preoccupied with social criticism sought appropriate mediums, styles, and audiences based on their differing conceptions of art's influence on society. Whether they employed 'high' or 'low' media and aimed at 'high' or 'low' audiences reflected conscious choices made in relation to a complex field of production and marketing. Socially-critical academic artists such as Jules Adler operated within the old salons, annually exhibiting naturalist paintings expressive of social concerns and addressed largely to the class in power, the bourgeoisie. Artists such as Jules-Fèlix Grandjouan and Bernard Naudin abandoned painting altogether in favor of political satire in journals costing half a franc and addressed to both the masses and left-wing intellectuals. Others such as van Dongen and Kupka divided their time between political cartooning and an outrageous avant-gardism that would, according to anarchist theory, pave the way for a new consciousness and a new society even in its abandonment of (and by) a popular audience. During this unsettled period, one can see artists responding to the dilemmas posed by such popularized and contradictory anarchist ideas: art should expose the follies and iniquities of the present social order, should be addressed to the masses, yet should be the untrammelled expression of the individual and open the path to a new social order. Prewar artists found a shared compass of concerns but differing solutions to the problems posed by the intersection of political commitment and artistic self-expression.
Naudin's decision to abandon the arena of the bourgeois salon in order to devote himself to graphics and satire in the penny weeklies bespeaks a desire to reach a different audience--the working class.
Anarchist and radical socialist artists frequently manifested their political allegiances by contributing works of art and art criticism to antiparliamentary journals like the radical socialist La Guerre sociale, the anarcho-syndicalist La Voix du Peuple... or the anarcho-communist Les Temps nouveaux. Such journals also sponsored art exhibitions where anarchists could sell work on behalf of these journals and presumably reach a sympathetic audience and clientele directly. Of the left-leaning artists exhibiting in the official salons, Naudin is exceptional in his decision to abandon not only painting for cartooning, but the Salon des Artistes franáais for the Salon des Indèpendants and anarchist journals such as L'Assiette au beurre, where his drawings appeared next to the work of Steinlen, Jules-Fèlix Grandjouan, van Dongen, and numerous other anarchist artists. [from Patricia Leighton's essay]