Sustaining the Republic: The Power of Political Prints by Honoré Daumier, Édouard Manet, André Gill, and Alfred Le Petit
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The fight for the liberty of the press was an ongoing struggle in France since the French Revolution in 1789 and it remained a factor until July 1881, when liberal press laws were enacted by the Republican officials in charge of governing the country at the time. The press was the life and soul of political life in nineteenth-century France. Prints formed a core currency of communication; they were the most important vehicle of visual information as they reached a far greater percentage of the population than did artworks in other media, and they had the force to unite people. As will be discussed over the course of this study, prints can help breakdown the complexity of political stakes of a nation at any moment in time to make them legible to a broad array of the viewing public. Between 1867 and 1881, the direction of the French regime hung in the balance. This dissertation argues that the prints of Honoré Daumier, André Gill, Alfred Le Petit, and Édouard Manet sustained the Republic at a crucial moment in French history. These four artists shared a republican ideology and they advanced a specific political agenda during a turbulent fifteen-year period in France. Their political prints helped shape the decisions of French citizens in coming to terms with the benefits that a republican governing body had to offer to the nation. Examining this relationship provides a network of related artistic efforts by a diverse group of artists within the visual language of satire in a manner that has not been explored before in a scholarly project. The period between 1867 and 1881 can be roughly broken down into four phases, and those distinct moments act as markers for my chapters. Each chapter examines artworks by each artist, some of which have never been reproduced before, or considers a particular event that has marked the individual’s career as a republican artist, to trace a large arc of republican sentiment. The years 1867 to 1870 formed part of the liberal phase of the Second Empire. Yet, Napoléon III was still viewed by many as an oppressor who barred the re-establishment of a republic. The first chapter investigates how the four artists mentioned above asserted freedom of political and artistic expression. After the collapse of the Second Empire, the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune overshadowed the early Third Republic in 1870-1871. The Republic was at its most fragile during this time, since it lacked a sense of direction and was marred by violence and turmoil. Chapter 2 considers the causes that Daumier, Manet, Gill, and Le Petit supported at a time when different shades of republicanism emerged. As a consequence of the civil disorder, a monarchical government headed the Third Republic from 1871 to 1877. From a political standpoint, this period was highly conservative, and unsettling to republicans. The third chapter examines political prints that were effective at discrediting the gouvernement de l’Ordre moral and other conservative forces in the first half of the 1870s. 1877 marked the first year republicans gained majority vote in national elections. From 1877 to 1881, though not without its controversies, the roots of a strong republican system started to take hold, effectively bringing to an end the “era of revolutions” in France. Chapter 4 addresses the key events that led to the spread of republican principles, and how this impacted what was tolerated and who became targets of opposition in political imagery. At a time when visual culture interrelated with historical events and political debates, I contend that Daumier, Manet, Gill, and Le Petit not only contributed to a spirit of republican resistance but were successful in creating a visual discourse of opposition prior to the passage of the liberal press laws in 1881. These artists were pivotal figures who fought for the liberty of expression that many other artists have been able to experience since then. Thus, the political prints Daumier, Manet, Gill, and Le Petit produced during a tumultuous and complex period of France’s history had served their purpose.
Chair and Committee
Simon Kelly, John Klein, Ila Sheren, William Wallace,
Valsamas, Maxime, "Sustaining the Republic: The Power of Political Prints by Honoré Daumier, Édouard Manet, André Gill, and Alfred Le Petit" (2020). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2247.
European History Commons, History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology Commons, Journalism Studies Commons