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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Paul Gavarni
Perhaps no artist personified Paris in his art more than Paul Gavarni (1804–1866), the clever and sensitive sketcher of all levels of society in the French capitol. About 1835 he became a caricaturist; before this he worked as an engineering draftsman. The satirical, political magazines of the mid-19th century attracted Gavarni as they did his more illustrious contemporary, Honoré Daumier (see Daumier’s prints in this exhibition). Gavarni provided illustrations for the publications Artiste, Silhouette, and the famous Charivari until 1847, when he left for England. By 1850 he was again in Paris, drawing his lithographic stones for magazines, and continuing to comment on the local scene.
In 1852 Gavarni began an ambitious series, Masks and Faces (Masques et Visages), that would eventually total 329 plates. He published the satirical images in a series of books beginning in 1857, under different subheads. Two volumes of the subseries The Bohemians (Les bohèmes) and three prints from the subseries Aging Courtesans (Les Lorettes vieillies) are displayed here. Lorettes were women who lived in Paris near the church Notre Dame de Lorette, where the rents were low. They were stereotyped as ‘kept women,’ dependent on the financial support of a string of lovers. In Aging Courtesans Gavarni contrasts the young and fashionable lorettes with old prostitutes.