Satire and Press cartoons in France
Ahead of the French Comics Apéro taking place on the 2nd of June at 6 P.M on Zoom, let's take a closer look at the state of press cartoons in France.
On Tuesday, we will be discussing the works of Catherine Meurisse and more specifically her comic Les Grands Espaces. But since she started out as an illustrator drawing cartoons for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the virtual apéro will also be the opportunity to delve a bit deeper in the complex world of news, humour, caricature and freedom of expression.
The comic La Légèreté, published in 2016 recalls the tragedy of the 7th of January 2015 and as Catherine was late for the magazine's weekly meeting, she in extremis missed the shooting. The story explains how she lost friends, mentors and – for a while – the taste of drawing. After the violence and trauma of the event, she felt a strong desire to reconnect with the beauty of the world. As such, we follow her wandering trough the Marcel Proust museum near la Loire, Le Louvre in Paris or La Villa Médicis in Rome.
Subsequently, she released Les Grands Espaces in 2018, where she recalls her childhood in the French countryside. An ode to art and a call to save the environment.
Soon before she was elected to the Academy of Fine Arts in January 2020, the comic Delacroix came out. From one anecdote to another, the temperaments of the immense artist Eugène Delacroix and the great novelist Alexandre Dumas are revealed.
This year, as the French Ministry of Culture celebrates BD 2020 – la France aime le 9e art, Catherine Meurisse, together with Jul, Régis Loisel and Florence Cestac
are the "parrains" and "marraines", meaning they are the emblems of a country that loves comic books.
"Made to laugh and inform, often irreverent, cartoons are in our societies a powerful form of expression and creativity at the service of the independence of the media and therefore of the vitality of our democracies" Wolinski
Charlie Hebdo first appeared in 1970 as a companion to the monthly Hara-Kiri magazine. In 1981 publication ceased, but the magazine was resurrected in 1992. Some of the men who set the standards of press cartoons at Charlie are François Cavannaet, le professeur Choron, Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski. Other contributors also include Cavanna, Luz, Riss, Gébé, Babouse and Siné. In addition to the historical contributors, Dilem, Juin and Coco, among others, are now giving the journal a new voice.
Charlie Hebdo has also sought out to bring out a current generation of press cartoonists by creating in 2020 a "Prix de la satire" for amateurs between 18 and 25 years old. This year's theme was "living without a smartphone". Besides, the Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, announced on the fifth anniversary of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the creation of a house of press cartoons and satirical cartoons to "enhance them while threats hang over them around the world". This project, thought and wanted by Georges Wolinski, aims to design a meeting place allowing the creation and promotion of press cartoons as well as the support of its creators.
Cartooning for Peace
“Cartoons make us laugh. Without them, our lives would be much sadder. But they are no laughing matter : They have the power to inform, and also to offend.” Kofi Annan
While press cartoons are particularly appreciated by satirical magazines such as Charlie Hebdo and Le Canard Enchainé (in which there are only illustrations and not a single photograph), in numerous French newspapers there will still be caricatures or press cartoons.
Press cartoonists comment society with a critical twist. Recurrent themes are youth, work, holidays, school, politics, censorship, consumerism, feminism, and now climate change, and technology. Cartoons are definitely a personal look on current events. They are subjective, express a point of view and they invite the reader to take a different look at an event and make their own judgment. By essence a controversial drawing, a cartoon does not always seek to trigger laughter, but it distorts, mocks, ridicules, denounces a situation or the behaviour of a person or social group. Its three basic functions are: exaggerate, disfigure, accuse. One should always look for the hidden message and try to go beyond a simple reading. If we refrain from laughing at sad or serious things, the field of humour becomes impractical. One should learn how to read a drawing. To do so, it is essential to be able to recognise the people in power (physical appearance), to be aware of current affairs, to understand historical allusions, codes and symbols.
Figures such as Plantu hope to contribute to more tolerance and peace with only a pen and ink. In 2006, together with former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan (Nobel Peace Prize in 2001), they formed an international network called "Cartooning for Peace". Over 200 people collaborate worldwide. Among the many French nationals, just to name a few, we recommend taking a look at the works of Catherine Beaunez, Louison, Jul, and Mykaïa.
Press cartoons are a complex but essential matter in democracies. As we will be discussing Catherine Meurisse, art, countryside, climate change, urban exodes and the French term "Néo-ruraux", prepare your tips of either funny, satirical or serious comic books or small strips published in the press about similar themes. We are looking forward to seeing you online on the 2nd of June!
To register and get the link, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org