The History of "Le Rire"
With more money and leisure time, the urban population reached
out for intellectual and spiritual experiences. Now better educated,
people acquired an appreciation of culture, art, and literature.
As the posters for publications attest, there was a hunger for books,
newspapers and magazines that brought the outside world to the reader
as never before (publications such as Harper's, Lippincott's, Le
Journal, Pan, Gills Blas, La Revue Blanche, and Le Rire)."
"Le Rire," meaning "to laugh," was the most
successful of all the "Journal Humoristique," published
in France during the "Belle Epoque" (The last years of
the 19th century). Published as an illustrated satirical weekly,
from October 1894 to well into the 1950's. It was founded in Paris
by Felix Juven in 1894. At the time corruption and incompetence
ran rampant in the politics of the French government. There was
anti-republican unrest directed on the infamous Dreyfus affair.
It was also the gay nineties, a time of crowded cabarets and cafes
flowing with the likes of Yvette Guibert and Polaire, to entertain
the restless generation of the new found industrial age. A perfect
time to poke fun at the political and social issues of the day.
It was the superb full colour drawings of the front and back covers
and the centre spread, which made "Le Rire" outstanding.
Printed as a small newspaper, black and white text and advertising
appears on the reverse of each colour drawing. The great artists
that flourished in Paris at the time were lined up to display their
talents in "Le Rire" to an anxious public. It's most famous
and important contributor was Toulouse-Lautrec,
who did ten remarkable coloured drawings plus seven in black and
white, during the first three years of publication (October 1894-October
1897). He introduces us to many of the celebrities of the day as
well as social situations from the bedroom to the brothel. Creating
some of the most beautiful and memorable drawings ever produced
for the publication.
The most prolific of all artists for the various journals of Paris,
including "Le Rire," was the great master Steinlen.
Between 1883 and 1900 he produced close to 2000 illustrations for
50 journals. "The humanity of the street, the working class,
the uneducated, the exploited, were the pervasive subject of Steinlen's
art. His popular sympathies found an economical and popular means
of communicating his social messages" (Color
Revolution p. 8) He contributed over a dozen striking works
to "Le Rire."
In 1898, the soon to be famous young Italian artist Leonetto
Cappiello, decided to pay a visit to Paris. He found the city
exciting, and wanted to stay, but had to find a way to support himself.
He approached two famous compatriots, the actor Novelli and the
composer Puccini, and asked them to let him sketch their caricatures.
They obliged, and Cappiello submitted the drawings to the humour
magazine "Le Rire." They were promptly accepted, and were
so well received by the public that he became, virtually overnight,
the favoured artist of the Paris Theatre. His dozens of drawings
for "Le Rire," earned him great recognition and his first
poster commission, from which he went on to become one of the most
popular poster artist's of the 20th Century.
Other well known artists and many soon to be, contributed to "Le
Rire," including Forain,
Georges Meunier, Guillaume,
and Bac to name a few. The works
of these and other artists in "Le Rire," printed over
100 years ago, have become sought after by collectors, and are becoming
increasingly difficult to find in good condition.