Comic Art: The Paris Salon in Caricature

Main Gallery

The Presidents of the Two SalonsCharles Léandre, The Presidents of the Two Salons, in Le Rire, May 2, 1903, color lithograph. The Research Library, The Getty Research Institute. 920048.

In nineteenth-century Paris, weekly illustrated journals published scores of caricatures of both Parisian everyday life and special events. The exaggerated language of caricature and its satirical bite were integral to the modernity of the visual culture of the big city and the definition of its characteristic social types. The art world was a frequent target of these humorous publications, especially the annual Salon — the huge juried art exhibition sponsored by the French government. Salon reviews in pictorial form poked fun at the yearly exhibition, from its dizzying and massive display of paintings and sculptures, to the self-importance of viewers and the prevailing mediocrity of the works. The exhibition, organized by The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, examined the wit and scathing commentary of these graphic satires during their heyday. To complement Comic Art, Northwestern University art history professor Hollis Clayson and art history students organized two other exhibitions exploring modern European caricature — Philipon's La Caricature and the Street and Political Currents across the Channel: James Gillray's Caricatures of France.