During the turbulent political period of the early 1870s in France, artists satirized the people and events around them in witty and grotesque caricatures. This collections includes 607 of these works related to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 and the Paris Commune of 1871, rendered primarily as pen and ink drawings, drawings with gouache (watercolor), and hand colored lithographs.
In July 1870, war broke out between an expanding Prussia, led by Otto von Bismarck, and an overconfident France, led by Napoleon III (the nephew of Napoleon I). After France suffered multiple defeats in battle, in September 1870 Napoleon III surrendered and the Third Republic was established. During the winter of 1870-1871 the Prussians besieged Paris, and the city’s inhabitants suffered starvation and bombardment. The beleaguered city surrendered in January 1871. A settlement was negotiated with Prussia to form a new French government, but in March 1871 a group of socialists led an insurrection against that government and established the Paris Commune. The Communards ruled the city until their defeat in May 1871. That same month, the Treaty of Frankfurt ended the Franco-Prussian War.
Many of the caricatures in this collection depict political figures from the period such as Napoleon III (referred to by his nickname Badinguet) and Adolphe Thiers (head of the provisional government). Notable artists represented include Honoré Daumier, Cham, and André Gill. The caricatures were sold as individual sheets, as sets, or included in the many newspapers produced in France at this time, and many were created during the Siege of Paris when outside news was scarce.
The original prints were donated to the UH Libraries by art patron and collector Alvin Romanksy. They are available in UH Libraries Special Collections.