Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) was a French lithographer,
painter, and sculptor who gained wide notoriety for his
social and political commentary on the monarchy, politicians,
and the middle class. Daumier was witness to three revolutions
(1830, 1848, and 1871) which transformed France from a
monarchy to a republic.
Daumier was 22 years old when Louis-Philippe became the
constitutional monarch of France in 1830. In July 1830,
a pro-republican revolution in French ousted the reigning
king, Charles X, and the Bourbon regime. Although the
working class favored a republican form of government,
the Marquis de Lafayette threw his influence behind a
limited monarchy, and the new legislature then instituted
a constitutional monarchy. Louis-Philippe was offered
the crown in exchange for honoring a charter that limited
Louis-Philippe's reign, known as the July Monarchy, lasted
18 years, from the revolution of 1830 to the revolution
of 1848. Throughout this time France was torn between
various rival factions: Royalists (who supported the old
monarchy), Orléanists (who backed the new monarchy),
republicans, and Bonapartists. In the early years of his
reign, Louis-Philippes basically conservative outlook
was strengthened by a number of workers demonstrations
and by several attempts on his life. Although he was a
constitutional monarch, Louis-Philippe gained considerable
personal power by splitting the liberal movement and appointing
weak ministers. As the new legislature proved to be equally
unresponsive to the economic needs and political desires
of the lower classes, Louis-Philippe became increasingly
In November 1830 a print publisher named Aubert and his
son-in-law Charles Philipon started an anti-monarchist
weekly paper called La Caricature. Daumier, an ardent
republican, began contributing political cartoons to the
publication. His caricatures of Louis-Philippe were so
popular that the monarch was prompted to re-introduce
censorship. Daumier was eventually sentenced to six months
in prison for his anti-monarchy lithograph titled Gargantua,
published in La Caricature in December 1831. The lithograph
portrayed a bloated Louis-Philippe on a commode, waiting
while the starving citizens of France struggled up a plank
to deposit treasure in his gaping mouth. Below the commode,
various favorites of the King scurry about picking up
the honors and ribbons obligingly excreted by the King.
In December 1832, Aubert and Philipon began a second
publication, Le Charivari, credited with being the first
daily paper to be illustrated with lithographs. Daumier
continued to contribute his political satires to both
publications. In 1834, in order to pay the censorship
fines imposed on his newspapers, Philipon started a large-format
publication (essentially a "print-of-the-month"
club) titled LAssociation mensuelle lithographique.
Many of the lithographs contributed by Daumier to this
publication are considered to be among his masterpieces,
including the lithograph titled Rue Transnonain (1834).
In this lithograph Daumier portrayed a poor, working-class
family mistakenly shot to death in their home by troops
from Louis-Philippes army. The King attempted to
have all copies of the print confiscated and destroyed.
In 1835 the French government prohibited political caricature
entirely, and so Le Charivari was forced to restrict itself
to satires of everyday life. Daumier published nearly
4000 lithographs in this publication between 1835 and
1860, averaging eight lithographs a month. He created
a critical panorama of Frances social classes in
transition from an agrarian society to an urban, industrial
society. Modern technologies such as railways, steamships,
and photography emerged during this time, adding material
for the social criticism and satire of the growing inequalities
of nineteenth-century French society.
Famine, unemployment, and a financial crisis provoked
the revolution of 1848, causing Louis-Philippe to abdicate.
During the winter of 1847-1848, a shortage of food drove
prices high, particularly in the cities. Workers held
demonstrations to demand affordable food. They were joined
by liberals who were interested in promoting their own
political goals, including gaining the right to vote.
To put down the protests, the French government sent its
army to dispel the crowds. The crowds resisted, building
barricades in the narrow city streets of Paris to stop
the soldiers. The turning point came when shopkeepers
and master artisans, who made up about one-fifth of the
population of Paris, joined the demonstrators. When they
sided with the workers and the liberals the balance of
power turned against the king, who fled the country. The
Second Republic had begun.
In late 1848, Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon I, was
elected the first President of the Second Republic. Bonaparte
served only three years as President before he did precisely
what many had feared he would do - he abolished the Republic
and its rights of free speech, free assembly and free
elections and made himself Emperor.
Daumier once again returned to political satire, publishing
lithographs in other publications in addition to Le Charivari,
where he seemed to be losing favor. In 1860 Le Charivari
abandoned Daumier completely, claiming that readers had
"tired" of him. He continued to create political
satires, publishing primarily in the newspaper Le Boulevard,
founded in 1862. Ironically, Napoleon IIIs administration
proved to be more liberal than the past regime, allowing
and even encouraging caricature. Le Charivari once again
hired Daumier (in 1863), where he continued to publish
lithographs until 1872.
In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war erupted. Emperor Napoleon
III surrendered to the Prussians on September 2, 1870.
Two days later, the Republicans in Paris staged a bloodless
revolution and proclaimed the establishment of the Third
Republic, definitively marking the end of centuries of
monarchy. In January 1871 Paris fell to the Prussians
after a four-month siege. By the terms of an armistice
signed later that month, the rest of France elected members
to a National Assembly in February, which was to vote
on whether to make peace with the Prussians. A majority
of the members were Royalists who wanted to restore the
monarchy and favored acceptance of the peace terms dictated
by the Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck. However,
the radical Republicans and socialists in Paris considered
Bismarck's terms humiliating and continued fighting. On
March 17 and 18, the Republicans in Paris led an uprising
against the national government. They established a proletarian
dictatorship in Paris and called for the election of a
municipal council. This council became known as the Commune
of 1871, and its members as Communards.
The National Assembly sent troops to Paris to suppress
the revolt. From May 21 to 28, a savage civil war ensued.
More than 20,000 Communards were slaughtered by government
troops. The Communards in turn burned numerous public
buildings in Paris and shot hostages. The Commune fell
on May 2 8, 1871.
The provisional republic created after May 1871 juggled
several competing political groups: The Radical Left;
The Conservative Republicans; and the Monarchists. In
1875 the National Assembly passed, by a margin of one
vote, a resolution establishing a republic. The new laws
provided for a president, a parliament in two chambers,
and a council of ministers, or cabinet, headed by a premier.
At the end of 1875 the National Assembly dissolved itself,
and the provisional phase of the Third Republic came to
When the first Chamber of Deputies was elected in 1876,
the Republicans won more than two-thirds of the seats.
In 1879 the Republicans won control of the Senate.
Daumier died in February, 1879. His funeral, on February
14, coincided with the consolidation of power by the Republican
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