Daumier, Vallotton et Steinlen… Dare to oppose !


From our collection

Since its creation, MBAL has received numerous donations and legacies that continue to enrich its collection. The exhibition showcases a selection from our collection that brings together engravings that were published at the time. Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), central French figure in political imagery in the 19th century and pioneer of the genre, as well as Swiss Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923), respectively a recognized caricaturist and a pamphlet writer, are some of the highlights of this exceptional exhibition.

The boom in press illustration was partly due to the emergence of lithography, introduced in France in 1802. Its flexibility, speed and low cost quickly made it a very popular technique, notably for caricature artists. While Daumier mainly targeted the bourgeoisie, corrupted officials and incompetent governments, Vallotton and Steinlen focused on the army, the physical and social violence exerted by the police, the justice system or money. Daumier’s ability to accurately portray a character or a scene of everyday life in just a few lines echoes the expressiveness, the bold flat colours and the very synthetic style of Vallotton’s woodcuts. During the First World War, Steinlen’s drawings mainly showed war’s collateral damage: refugees on the roads, the weariness and disillusionment on soldiers’ faces during a lull in fighting.

Full of humour, realism and sometimes sentimentality, these engravings share many similarities in their way of documenting political events and show once again that image is a formidable weapon.

The engravings on display are from the Claudine and Pierre-Antoine Nardin Family donation.