Cham, der “populäre” Karikaturist

Wieder Daumier. Die nachfolgende Abhandlung von David Kunzle, die im englischen Original wiedergegeben ist, vergleicht Daumiers Karriere mit derjenigen des damals viel populäreren Amédée de Noé, der unter dem Pseudonym Cham bekannt war. Dieser war zehn Jahre jünger als Daumier und ein Schüler von dessen künstlerischem Vorbild, dem arg unterschätzten und von Baudelaire aus dem Karikatur-Olymp verbannten Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet. Während der vorangegangene Artikel “Wider Daumier” vor allem aus der Perspektive der grafischen Sozialreportage argumentiert hat, wirft der Beitrag von Kunzle mit seinem Schwergewicht auf der grafischen Narration ein viel spezifischeres Licht auf die Frage, warum sein Verleger Philipon Daumier einen Mangel an Imaginationskraft attestiert hat. Obgleich dieser Text  über die posthume Herabsetzung von Cham und  die Mystifizierung Daumiers vor nunmehr dreissig Jahren geschrieben wurde ist er noch immer sehr lesenswert und aktuell in seinen Analysen. Er erschien erstmals im Dezember 1980 in der Gazette des Beaux-Arts. Eine weitgreifendere Abfassung  über Cham, die auch seine frühen Comic-Alben in der Nachfolge von Rodolphe Töpffer einschloss, wurde zehn jahre später im zweiten Teil von Kunzle´s Bahn brechender  “The History of the Comic Strip (The nineteenth Century)” abgedruckt;  dieses Werk, das bedauerlicherweise vergriffen und nur schwer erhältlich ist, kann noch immer als die wesentliche Abhandlung  zur Entwicklunggeschichte der sequentiellen Bilderzählung gelten. Obgleich es eine Vielzahl weiterer Forschungen auf diesem Gebiet angestossen hat, gibt es noch immer erhebliche Wissenslücken. So fehlt beispielweise weiterhin eine Studie über die changierende politische Couleur des Charivari sowie eine kritische Monografie zu Cham, von dem Kunzle der Überzeugung war, dass er “diese wirklich verdiene”. Denn er kann nicht nur als Wegbereiter des Comic – Strip und als der führende grafische Kriegssatiriker der Zeit gelten, sondern auch als ein Pionier und Hauptvertreter der gezeichneten Kunstkritik, der so genannten Salonkarikatur.

David Kunzle hat zuletzt die Monografie „Rodolphe Töpffer. Father of the Comic Strip” veröffentlicht. Zur Zeit arbeitet er an “Chesucristo“, einer ausgedehnten Studie zur Verschmelzung von Jesus Christus und Che Guevara in Text und Bild.


There are two fundamental processes in the mythification of Daumier, in the critical tailoring of the artist and his work to the needs of bourgeois art history, as has been amply demontrated by Michel Melot. The first is to separate the lithographer, caricaturist and journalist from the painter and artist, and to elevate the latter over the former. The second, taking into account the patent historical absurdity of the over 5,000 prints from which Daumier made a decent living for forty-five years, seeks to promote a number of likely candidates from the low status journal caricature, to the higher one of art-print, with its consequent critical-commercial value. The separation involved here is that of the print from its context in the magazine, the press, public opinion, politics, history , and its elevation to the coffee table, museum, and auction room. The unprooting of caricature from its particular moment in history has been particularly drastic.

The separation of Daumier’s art from history and his elevation from caricaturist to artist were facilitated by four material factors.
1.    He made only of primarily large lithographic plates, such as were physically suitable, whatever their subject, to detachment from the magazine in which they first appeared, to exhibition as art objects on the wall of a home or later, a museum, or the collector’s portfolio, while the magazine itsself was discarded. The lithographs were also often printed, at the time of their publication, on specially fine paper to attract collectors.
2.    He aimed to produce designs which were visually striking from a certain distance and as far as possible independent of captions the artist disowned, in order to reinforce their physical suitability as visual art objects as defined no No 1.
3.    He avoided narrative series of plates and narrative albums which demanded to be read rather than „merely“ looked at , or which reduced the size, singularity and isolability of the image.
4.    Daumier was never fully or never for long absorbed in work for the journals. Intermittently, he left enough time and energy to sculpt, paint and do water colors. Publishers paid well enough for good illustration and cartoons to permit an artist to live off them at a relatively low productive level, Daumier’s being much lower than that of Gavarni, Dorè  or Cham, each of whom may have achieved in shorter life spans more than three time Daumier’s output.

In all of the above respects, the career of Daumier may be contrasted with that of Cham. His forte was in small designs, arranged either six to twelve on a page, in a macédoine, or according to a single theme, or in a narrative sequence, or else spread over the pages of a small, cheap album. He was concerned less with the visual impact than a witty combination of picture and text in which the caption was often of the essence, and always of his own invention. Cham never practiced any medium but drawing for lithograph and wood engraving, his output of which appears incalculable.

These factors, while they all contributed to the decline of Chams’s reputation, and his exclusion from the 20th century artistic pantheon to which Daumier was quickly elevated, gave him a distinct commercial advantage in his lifetime, and help explain why he was able to fill the gap left by Daumier’s departure from the Charivari (1861-63), a departure his commercially more viable talents may be said to have, if not actually provoked, then certainly facilitated, hastened or prolonged.

Fig. 1 – Cham,  Parodys of Millet´s peasants (in Cham au Salon de 1836)

There is above all a class distinction within the audience of Daumier and Cham, which explains the posthumouns critical elevation for the one, and the critical neglect of the other. The readership of the Charivari , small as it always was, tapped the wealthier upper-middle class art-conscious Repulican public at the one end and the politically discontented, but perhaps art-ignorant lower middle classe at the other. Daumier, I believe, spoke primarily to the former, and thus found his champions among certain members of the cultural elite with upper class connections: Balzac, Baudelaire, Banville, Champfleury, etc. Cham spoke rather to the other end of the scale, those less concerned with „enduring art“ than the irritations and follies, large and small, of the socio-political day-to-day. He also tapped other, vaster audiences than Daumier, who was almost exclusively tied to the Charivari, through his work for magazines with much higher circulations, such als L’Illustration ( 20,000 to Charivari’s 2,000) which reached  a wider social spectrum and also embraced, very particularly and very importantly, children: a segment largely ignored by the politically sophisticated Charivari , although amply catered to in other publications of Philipon and Aubert. Children, if we may consider them as a social as well as biological class – not in a Marxist sense – may be likened to a proletarian or lower class: socially subordnate, politically undeveloped, with an inchoate but rising consciousness of being caught in contradictions, and in a struggle for emancipation. Cham’s audience very often included the intelligent , older child and great significance should be attached to this fact, even if we cannot explore its ramifications here.

We can here begin to show that Cham was the most successful caricaturist of the age posterity has called the age of Daumier. We may cite some simple statistics to demonstrate how dramatically the fame of Cham , whose name had surely been known to far more people than Daumier`s for the thirty years preceding their deaths, has declined, as that of Daumier, no less dramatically has risen. Cham and Daumier died the same year (1879); despite the critical attentions garnered by Daumier through the exhibition of his paintings and prints the preceding year, and the number of appreciative essays by important writers which appeared in preceding decades – for which there is, to my knowledge, no equivalent in Cham´s criticism – it was Cham who was first given a full scale biography in 1884 , that is, four years before Alexandre’s of Daumier 1. In Vapereau’s Dictionnaire Universel des Contemporains of 1880, Cham is given slightly more space than Daumier. Cham’s name was, at this time, still fully before the public, with several albums composed of selections from the innumerable albums published under this name during the previous thirty or forty years. There were relatively few such albums published under the name of Daumier available, and they were much more expensive. The National Union Catalog of American Libraries has nearly 160 entries under the name of Cham (actually Noé) dated or dateable to the 19th century, ten times as many as for Daumier (16 entries); for the 20th century, on the other hand, there is not a single publication of or about Cham, whereas there are 83 for Daumier 2. Cham’s oeuvre includes no less than 123 differently titled albums, exclusive of more or less composite (factice) anthologies.

Given the fact that some of these albums survive in unique copies in North American collections and in France, perhaps in only one major public collection, that of the Bibiothèque Nationale 3, it is not excluded that there are Cham albums not listed in any major library catalog and which have perhaps disappeared altogether, bought and read to extinction. Cham is also credited with having executed unspecified anonymous works. In 1886 , Béraldi appealed for a catalog, noting „la besogne est pour effrayer“ 4. No one collected Cham as Daumier is collected; Cham never found his Delteil. His oeuvre is indeed too vast for integral cataloguing and reproduction „à la Delteil“, although not too vast, one hopes, for the age of computer and microfiche.

Comparison of Cham and Daumier reveals many paradoxes of journalism and caricature of the period. Why was Daumier, applauded ever since his death as the life-long Republican, the scourge of tyrants, the friend of the People, on the whole less successful, less „typical“ of the Republican and „popular“ Charivari, than the aristocratic, royalist, „reactionary“ Cham ? 5 We can only begin to answer this question here. Lacking that long overdue history of the Charivari and a study of its political complexion as it evolved over the years, in the hands of a group of men whose political position was not at all uniform and seldom constant, ranging from overt hostility to Louis-Philippe to open support of a „conservative“ Second Republic and patriotic accommodation with the Second Empire; lacking all analysis to the political lines adopted in the text pages which cannot be exactly the same as those in the pictures, we are hardly in a position to assess Cham’s and Daumier’s relative position within the journal, and the Charivari’s relative position within the journals of Repulicans or oppositional tendencies. Daumier may eventually emerge as much more conservative, or cautions or evasive than the existing mythology, at any rate, would suggest; and Cham might appear as the perpetual gadly of society, more petty-bourgeois-anarchist than aristocratic-conservative. It is my hypothesis that Cham’s appeal was primarly to the broad lower-middle class with less artistic-intellectual pretentions, and a less conscious but not less real sense of political frustration, than the liberal-republican upper-middle strata addressed by Daumier. But, even the term „appeal“ has its ambiguities, depending as it does upon a relationship between „critical reputation“ as forged by a tiny handful of critics, and the extent of the readership for which sales figures, if available, may not be an accurate reflection. The work by Cham which entirely bypassed critical attention 6, was quickly forgotten and is now the least available, may be that which reached the most readers, who (including a high proportion of children) literally read it to pieces: the two dozen or so comic strip stories, concentrated in the early part of Cham’s career 7. These are also perhaps the most intrinsically interesting, as well as the most accessible today (since they do not rely on advance knowledge of the topics of the time), and constitute an important chapter in that submerged sub-category of caricature, the picture-story or comic strip.

Fig. 2 – Cham,  Parodys of Le juif errant (in Cham au Salon de 1863, deuxiéme promenade)

Fig. 3 – Cham,  Parodys of Ugolino (in Cham au Salon de 1863, deuxiéme promenade)


In 1840, Töpffer wrote to Sainte Beuve, expressing regret that artists of the stature of Daumier and Gavarni had not dedicated themselves to the picture stories which he considered the more moral and popularly accessible media. About the same time, Grandville , who was endowed with considerable verbal skill and literary imagination, expressed regret that he was even so unable to think in terms of pictorial narratives. The market, the popular demand was there; only the artist-writers (apart from Cham) were lacking.

We have already considered why Daumier should have avoided the format as inadequate to his purpose of making art prints. Later (in 1861) when Philipon had to defend the retirement of Daumier from the Charivari,  he deemed him „lacking in imagination“ – he meant the kind of literary imagination capable of thinking up and rapidly improvising comic situations and writing his own captions for them, like most caricaturists. But there is evidence that at the beginning of the vogue for the Töpfferian „albums Jabot“, Philipon pressured Daumier to attempt, if not a small cheap comic album, then a quasi-narrative series of large satires with a continuing hero which might later be published as an album . This was called Mèsaventures et Désappointements de Mr. Gogo, which Philipon in November and December 1838 used to launch his new enterprise, the Caricature Provisoire, a journal „tout-à-fait non-politique“.

Being defiantly („provisionally“) non-political, the magazine sought out new forms and formats of social satire. One was the illustrated „supplement“ with the novelty of hand-coloring; another was the halb-page picture, changed each week,  on the cover (where Le Charivari  was all text), and a third was a picture story, which the Charivari had hitherto avoided. The primary truly causative narratrive (causative in a way the episodic Gogo is not ) of the Caricature Provisoire in its early numbers (3,5 and 7) is of a very conventionally didactic, even archaic Imagerie d’Epinal kind: the „Education Parisienne“, with twelve tame drawings by Bouchot and scenario by Philipon, which represents a throw-back to Philipon’s pre- Charivari and pre-Caricature days as a popular imagier. The „Edication Parisienne“ a caution on the moral dangers of a „fashionable“ upbringing, can hardly have fired Philipon, its author and publisher, with any enthusiasm; he was surely expecting much more of the collabolration with Daumier. M. Gogo’s destiny as an album is indicated by the fact that it opens with a title piece; in format and content, with its longish captions explaining financial manipulations, it was obviously intended from the start as a companion to the Robert Macaire series, then about two-thirds complete in the Charivari. Macaire was conceived from the point of view of the great charlatan-entrepreneur who dominates each plate; Gogo was to illustrate the fate of his victim, the shareholder. He was the eternal dupe, like so many comic strip heroes. But no one was found to write the complete scenario for Daumier and the series stopped short after four (or five with the title page)  weaker-than-usual designs. Philipon, who never let anything go to waste, nevertheless found a way of incorporating the aborted series into an album – logically one composed largely of Robert Macaire plates, with Gogo, l’Annonce et La Réclame, and L’Association en Commandite …. thrown in to make up the required measure of 28 plates.


Fig. 4 – Daumier,  La Journée d´un célibataire, 8 heures du matin. Published in Le Charivari

Despite the failure of Gogo, Philipon tried in 1839 once more to pressure Daumier into narrative, this time in the first flush of success or anticipated success with his Töpffer piracies and Cham’s first two albums. The venture was called La Journée du Célibataire (A Day in the Life of a Bachelor). In conception, it is, once again traditional, reminiscent of the broadly conventional cycle of typical Lives (of the Young Girl, Young Man, etc.) blended with series of typical activities appropriate to the succeeding hours of the day. As with the „Education Parisienne“ and Gogo, the central character, M. Coquelet, provides the only real continuity. Philipon’s hopes that the Macaire team could breathe life into the project appears to have waned by the fourth number, for, having offered it as a „Sunday special“ for three Sundays in succession (14, 21, and 28 April), he allowed two weeks to elapse before the next two plates appeared, at odd times during the week and in the wrong order („10 heures du matin“ appears 16 May after „11 heures du matin“ of 12 May). Stories on hand and an existing commitment to Daumier to a set of twelve may have prevented Philipon from abandoning the series, which trickled on through the next three months, by passing July altogehter (4, 17 and 22 June, 20 and 25 August, 4 and 15 September), and finally closing all of five moinths after it had opened.

When the album did appear, it was poorly advertised, was printed in a small but high-priced edition (at twelve francs for as many plates, almost twice the cost of Macaire-Gogo album) in recognition presumably of its lack of attraction to any but Daumier addicts. Philipon’s impatience and lack of concern my have crystallized over the fourth and fifth plates, which he carelessly allowed to appear in the wrong order, after having placed in the caption to the fourth the seed of a little intrigue with respect to a flower the bachelor contemplates offering a lady he had one thus favored 35 years earlier. The caption to the following plate develops the intrigue insofar as Coquelet is described as changing his mind out of avarice, but Daumier’s drawing, ignoring the reference to Coquelet washing his own handkerchief (as further proof of his avarice and renunciation of the thought of love), ends up as irrelevant and meaningless. The series breaks down into unconnected social vignettes in which the characterization of the misanthropic bachelor as a social typ becomes incidental; it is redeemed, if at all, by the activity of the pet animals who are Coquelet’s true consolation. The final plate, in which Coquelet snuffs out the candle to end a day identical to and as boring as the preceding and following one, may convey something  of both Philipon’s and Daumier’s feelings about the project. We reconstruct this experience in order to typify the kind of difficulties encountered in a form of collaboration which could simply be bypassed with the self-sufficient Cham.


Despite the success of the Macaire series, the Charivari  in 1839 was in difficulties. There was the lawsuit for an article published at the end of the previous year. 8 The caricature magazine, which still had no rival, was having difficulty preserving its identity as such. Despite access to the best of Gavarni and Daumier, there were not enough good caricatures available, and / or the economics of publishing an illustrated daily necessitated recourse to a high proportion of non-satirical fillers, many of which must have been paid for by other parties, since they functioned as advertisements for them. The Charivari seemed to promise regularization of offerings which, as one leafs quickly through the journal, strike one as irregular and unpredictable. The masthead carried a list of „sept séries spéciales“ rather as if each day of the week was to have its own series, comprised of fifty-two drawings each „de Théâtre, de Genre, d’Art ou de Musée, de Modes, Portraits-charges, Actualités“, and a final miscellaneous group called „politique, littérature, arts industriels“, followed by a list of eleven artists. The number of non-caricatural, non-satirical illustrations at this time is large: there are straight hunting and military scenes, straight scènes des moeurs by Gavarni, straight portraits (not „portrait-charge“, as promised) in a short-lived series calles „Hommes du Jour“, straight  reproduction of Salon painting and sculpture, regular fashion plates presumably paid for by the firms to whom the articles of clothing are credited, and pages of illustrations from books for which their publisher (not Philipon) pressumably paid, since they functioned as advertisements. There are other signs that Philipon was trying to cut costs – drawings printed skewed, for instance, and even upside down.

From 1844 , there were far fewer non-satirical fillers and concealed advertisements of this kind, and the Charivari became once more fully a caricature journal, a change for which Cham should be given major credit, especially given the temporary absence of Gavarni (he did not return until April, 1846). With his early , but minor (or obscur) reputation for comic strip albums 9, Cham from 1844 rapidly established himself in the public eye with a wide range of social and political subjects published in both the Charivari and L’Illustration.

Fig. 5 – Cham, Parody of a picture by Manet (in le Salon pour Rire, 1872)

Cham joined the two magazines almost simultaneously, in late December, 18343. L’Illustration, that very successful pioneer of the illustrated news weekly, was less than a year old when it acquired Cham, at the same time as it launched the young Bertall. During the following five years, Cham delivered to it about seventy series on a great variety of single themes, each carrying between one half and two dozen drawings spread over one half to two succeeding pages, to a total of well over a thousand individual vignettes. He was Illustration’s primary caricaturist until the magazine, as it became more and more serious and more and more conservative under the Second Empire, gradually phased out caricature.

Fig. 6 – Cham, Parody of a l´Espérance by Puvis de Chavannes (in le Salon pour Rire, 1872)

At the same time Cham was supplying Le Charivari with an increasing number of design, at first the full-page lithographs that were the magazine’s staple, then , increasingly, those series of small vignettes, whether in narrative sequence or not (Illustration-style), which were to become his specialty. Cham made his debut in the Charivari on 20 December 1843 with a twenty-plate series spread over the first six months of 1844 called Moeurs Algériennes, Chinoiseries Turques, a title of calculated silliness matched by the (sometimes charming) silliness of the conceptions. They contrast with the more serious Les Troupiers en Afrique by Benjamin Roubaud which succeeded Cham’s series from June 1844. Cham thus introduced a form of political commentary at a time when political criticism was taboo; although he never travelled to the theatres of war, he was to remain Charivari’s primary war commentator throughout the Second Empire. Travel might actually have hindered him, for he brought to this innately serious subject-matter a particular spirit of detachment and frivolity which (pending further study 10) appears effectively to mask the doubts, the protest, the pain and other dissonant realities the magazine was unable to manifest.

Thereafter, Cham began to establish himself in his speciality; the scatter-shot of little, wittily captioned graphic jokes, usually of topical import, which became increasingly popular, especially in the form of the Revue Comique de la Semaine (Charivari from 1848, onwards). This format garnered Cham honors and a prominence denied to Daumier all his life: whole issues of the magazine, with his name in large type on the front page. On 9 and 30 June 1844, Cham got what no Charivari artist had ever been given: all four pages of the magazine, to ridicule some of the „3963 exhibits and 212, 454 new or perfected (industrial) inventions“ under the title Revenue Charivarique de l’Exposition de 1844. Cham obviously loved exhibitions, whose very principle of organization, multiplicity and  variety, he temperamentally shared.

His first real triumph, however, began on 22 August of that year, when he inaugurated his ten – part Parodie du Juif Errant 11, which appeared at fairly regular intervals following the publication of the colume parts of Sue’s orginal novel, and accupied each time the whole of the paper, until the last installment in September the following year. Although Cham did not write the text, which is by Philipon and Louis Huart, with as many as two dozen drawings each time occupying half the space he is clearly an equal attraction at the very least. Significantly, the very heavy advertising in the Charivari for the colume edition of the parody features Cham’s name very prominently , and those of the writers not at all. It is also revealing of the special consideration in which his work and the exceptional economic advantage it represented, was held, that Philipon decided to dispense with the advertising section which normally occupied the bottom one third to one half of page four. There was an extra demand for the paper whenever the Sue parody appeared, for Philipon had to put a notice at the foot of the Fifth Part (25 February), explaining that his brother-in-law and publishing associate, Aubert, having bought the rights to the work in volume form, the Charivari was not allowed to print more copies than it had subscribers. Philipon had also to warn the pirates that plagiary, „that is, forgery was punishable by death, and that since Collemann has acquired the right to flood Germany with Sue, we have negotiated with publishers all over the world, so that there remain only the rights to Portugal, Mexico, China and Batignolles“. (Cham actually lived in the Bohemian artists’ quarter of Paris). The warning was humorous in form but serious in intent, and reaffirmed 25 February 1845: „Toute reproduction, même moléculaire, est plus que jamais interdite“. These warnings presumably targetted the likes of the Brussels edition of that year, the London edition of the following year, and an undated New York edition, a wretchedly printed job with cuts in reverse from the original. 12

This is not the place to assess the quality of the parody, which is certainly more amusing as well as mercifully briefer than the interminable original; we may merely note in passing that Philipon and Huart, pretending total exhaustion after their labors over ten whole issues of the Charivari,  credit Cham with having rendered signal support „by his perfect understanding of the morality“ of Sue’s novel, dedicating himself to it despite his no less serious commitment to „helping M. Ingres decorate the ceiling and walls of one of the principal monuments of Paris“ 13.

Meanwhile, Cham had delivered to the Charivari his extensive lithographic picture story, Voyage en Amérique, mentioned above, and established another kind of parody, artistic instead of literary, one which was to enjoy an unparalleled success throughout the century, and to be idly imitated in other journals: parodic caricature of the Salon exhibiton 14. The new venture was trumpeted at the head of the 18 April 1845 issue: „Demain samedi nous publierons un numéro de HUIT PAGES, illustré de nombreuses vignettes sur bois CARICATURANT les principaux tableaux du Salon de 1845. Bien que ce numéro ait entraîné le Charivari à des dépenses considérables, il se vendra isolément au prix de 50 centimes (i.e. normal price of a single issue)… The following day’s edition of the Charivari headlined DU SALON DE 1845 ILLUSTRE PAR CHAM was presumably printed in extra large numbers, and hawked at or near the entrance to the Salon exhibition held in the Louvre. His Salon parody for the following year also constitued a double number (17 April).
A full study of the caricatural salons of the 19th century, a major phenomenon of graphic satire and art-politics is long overdue. Suffice it to stress here that this annual clou of the magazine remained Cham’s exclusive fief until the year of his death 15. Cham should, therefore, be regarded as one of the major art-critics of the age, in a genre which he (rather than Baudelaire, as claimed by Chadefaux) pioneered, and of which he remained for an entire generation the major exponent. An American writer went so far as to state that his „verdict was awaited with more impatience than the verdicts of the critics“ and that „the only men who had a grievance against him were those he did not caricature.“ 16.

Less important occasions than the Salon also became, in the hands of Cham, pretexts of four pages of illustrations (e.g. Plaisirs de l’Hippodrome, 12 August, 22 August and 8 September 1845) and double issues (e.g. Revue Philosophique, 1 January 1847).

Fig. 7 – Cham, Le public revendique. (Cham au Salon de 1863, deuxiéme promenade)


The respective publications formats of Cham and Daumier, include one other significant differential: Cham’s work was also printed in the form of enormous rolls of wallpapers, together with other rows of small woodcuts originally designed for the papers of the Charivari stable. This wallpaper was continuously advertised as suitable for the „country-house dining room, billiard-room, kiosk, well-lit corridor, a waiting room, smoking room…and other places“ (i.e. bathroom) 17.
To the few, caricature was an art form. To many, it was harmless entertainment, pleasing decoration of the social environment. Others found in it – or aspects of it – a special kind of solace. They found in it things which the artist did not necessarily intend. This is especially true of the comic strip, which by its very nature often defied conscious control on the part of the artist.
Töpffer, Cham and many of the masters of the 19th century comic strip developed the genre in a deliberately casual and intuitive way which tended to let it slip out of control, and play upon a sense of chaos and unconscious needs for rebellion against nonsensical social and moral order.
Analysis of the content of the comic strip, in the 19th century, in contrast to caricature as such (meaning single, self-contained cartoons), will prove, I think , that it embodies a rather different ideology, consonant with the different lower social classes it addresses.
These classes were engaged and suffering in the social struggle in a more direct, more vulnerable and less detached manner. The comic strip is, first of all, more intensely and consistently physically violent than the cartoon. Its typical repertoire of postures includes running, falling, chasing, escaping, fighting, hitting – and being arrested, beaten up, taken to jail, sitting in jail: A whole repertoire of activities and situations (especially with respect to prisons and police) where the vulnerability and impotence of the protagonist is exposed, and which would be hard to duplicate in the oeuvre of élite caricaturists such Daumier and Gavarni. The gestures best remembered and most admired in Daumier are not those ot the petty-bourgeois type at all, but those of the entrepreneur  or lawyer-rhetorical, oratorial gestures of power and persuasion. In terms of theatre, Daumier’s world is high comedy; Cham’s is farce. But the absurdity and apparent frivolity of this farce should not conceal from us the reality of the pain and struggle it seeks to mediate and sublimate.

David Kunzle, 1980

Digital version with the kind permission of the author: Melton Prior Institute, 2010

Fig. 8 – Cham, Birth of the postcard (and other subjects) Revue comique in Le Monde illustré 


The text reproduces parts of a more comprehensive treatment of Cham destined for my History of the 19th century Comic Strip, (published in May 1990: The History of the Comic Strip, Vol. II: The Nineteenth Century. University of California Press)  which includes analysis of his important early comic strip albums and illutrations, here mentioned only in passing, but the basis of the concluding remarks, and the contrast with Daumier. A version of my text appearing in the Histoire et Critique des Arts Daumier issue, 1980 , which also includes the article by Michel Melot referred to in my opening sentence here, carries a section assessing „Cham’s work 1847-62“ (his visit to England, his introduction of the Revue Comique de la Semaine and its significance, his illustration of the journal specially created for him, Punch à Paris, and his experience of the censorship). No treatment of Cham could ignore his saturation of Philipon’s Journal Amusant in the 1860s, or his triumph with a parody of Les Misérables. Cham is truly worthly of a critical monograph.

1.    Felix Ribeyere, Cham, sa vie et son oeuvre, Lettre-Préface d’Alexandre Duman fils, Paris 1884.
2.    The Cabinet des Estampes listing for Cham (Inventaire du Fonds francais après 1800, v.4 pp. 235-257) has 241 items, most of them distinct albums.
3.    One of these albums, M. Barnabé Gogo, is lacking its title page, which suggests that it has never been possible to find a complete copy. Pincez-moi à la campagne, Martinet, n.d. evaded the dépôt légal, not being listed in the B.N., either Imprimés or Estampes. I have been unable to find an album mentioned by Halévy as Cham’s first: Calembours, bêtises et jeux de mots tirés par les cheveux (1842; not in ADHÉMAR).
4.    Les Graveurs du XIXe siècle, IV, 1886, p.79.
5.    A police report of 1852 describes Louis Huart, a dominant figure on the Charivari staff, a „royaliste“, Clément Caraguel as „republicain modéré“ and Taxile Delord as an extremist republicain. (Arch.Nat. F 18-325.35.) Precise elucidation of Cham’s personal political position(s) as they evolved over the years would require minute analysis. Gérôme in 1883 (Introduction to Cham, Les Folies Parisienne, Quinze Année Comiques 1864-1879) writes in astonioshment and admiration at this „reactionnaire de naissance, d’éduction, de goûts et d’idées occupant, sans interruption durant plus de trentes années, la première place dans les colonnes du Charivari .“ Marius Vachon , on the other hand, stresses his moral and political indifference and asks „était-il libréral, républicain ou réactionnaire? Nul ne saurait le dire exactement“. The critic would have us believe that Cham was all things to all men; in other words, above politics (Cham , in G.B.A., XX, 1879, pp.43-46)
6.    Ludovic Halévy (Douze Années Comiques par Cham 1868-1879, C. Lévya Paris, 1880) characterizes the period 1842-48 as containing „rien de bien saillant“.
7.    About sixteen before 1848, about seven after.
8.    Notre Procès , 6 January 1839, with reference to an article published 1 December 1838.
9.    And also, perhaps, for a series of 50 centimes „album de poche“ called Miroirs Comiques: Miroir de l’Etudiant, de l’Etiduant en Vancances , de l’Artiste, de l’Amateuer, de l’Epicier, du Moutard, du Calicot, etc, plaquettes rarissimes qui ne se rencontrent que fort rarement (GRAND CARTERET p. 630). I have seen none of these.
10.    I make a distinction here between the sometimes crypto-subversive comic strips, and the large drawings about France’s foreign wars, of which one’s first impression is that they are supportive of the wars, especially under the Second Empire. Cham’s attitude may have changed considerably in 1848; it is far from clear that the (non-narrative) series and album of 1846 A la Guerre comme à la Guerre, while it praises the patience and stoism of the French soldier in Algeria, is not also an implicit criticism of the war, or its conduct. Nor is it entirely lacking in evidence of sympathy for the Arab (cf. particularly the last two plates). Gérome’s description (p.9) of him as „patriote jusqu’au chauvinisme“ may refer to his behavior during the Franco-Prussian War.
11.    22 August, 5 Octobre, 12 November, 6 December 1844, 25 February , 5 April, 27 May, 8 July, 30 August and 15 September 1845.
12.    Parodie du Juif Errant, Bruxelles, Société Belge de Livrairie, 1845; The Parody of the Wandering Jew, London. E. Appleyard, 1846 and The Comic Wandering Jew, New York, Dick and Fitzgerald.
13.    Brussels ed.p. 293
14.    Parodies of Salon paintings had existed largely in the very limited form of single plates (e.g. Charivari from 1839). Bertall war the first to systematically unite a number of small , capitioned vignettes, each mocking a different painting (Illustration, 20 April 1844). Cham may have taken the idea from him, or a predescessor in the Charivari (e.g. 20 March to 29 May 1843), expanding it to include much more extensive and continuous verbal commentary and more humorous designs (Bertall’s are rather anodyne). Cham, in turn, may have inspired the Salon Caricatural of 1845 attributed to Baudelaire in collaboration  (cf. Marie-Claude Chadefaux, Le Salon Caricatural de 1846 et les autres salon caricaturaux, in G.B.A., March 1868, pp.161-176, with an extensive list of 230 19th century Salon parodies as featured in the press). Cham’s first effort in the genre appears in the Chadefaux text (pa. 162) with the wrong date (1847), which is correct, however, in the bibliography (p.166). The second Bertall listing also seems to be wrong (Journal pour Rire 1846, i.e. two years before the journal of that name first appeared).
Another predecessor of Cham is Grandville, who includes two chapters with numerous drawings satirizing salon painting in Un autre Monde ( ch. xiii and xiv), 1844.
15.    According to Chadefaux’s list: 1845 annually through 1848 (when Cham also did a comic Salon for L’Illustration), 1851 (also for L’Illustration), 1853, 1857, 1861, 1863 through 1870, 1872 through 1878.
16.    Richard Whiting, Cham , in Scribner’s Monthly, March 1880, p. 749.
17.    In this form, the advertisement appeared over a half page in the Musée Francais-Anglais for June 1857. Dessins comiques en rouleaux had been available since 1852, and continued to be advertised through the 60’s. In 1860, Papier Peint Comique was being listed on Philipon’s office stationery along with his other six periodical publications.

Fig. 9 – Cham, A „visitor“  (in Le Salon pour Rire, 1872)

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