Vous l’avez sans doute déjà repéré : sur la plateforme OpenEdition Books, une nouvelle interface vient d’être mise en ligne.
En cas d’anomalies au cours de votre navigation, vous pouvez nous les signaler par mail à l’adresse feedback[at]openedition[point]org.

Précédent Suivant

The Beginnings of the Bande Dessinée

p. 133-150

Texte intégral

1Although the Bande Dessinée is an ubiquitous part of modern visual culture, even those familiar with its origins in the work of the Swiss schoolmaster Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846) are often unaware that its visual language developed only gradually across several decades. For while it is true that Töpffer invented this genre, known in the nineteenth century as « albums comiques », it was French artists from the 1830s to the 1850s who developed his invention into the modern visual language of the Bande Dessinée. This can be seen in even a brief survey of the genre’s first decades.

2While the Bande Dessinée developed incrementally across several centuries, with precedents ranging from broadsheets to the print series of William Hogarth, there is unanimous agreement that it was Töpffer who truly invented the modern genre. Establishing a chronology depends upon our definitions, of course, as David Kunzle has shown in his two-volume History of the Comic Strip, a valuable resource for all scholars working in this area1. Among earlier precedents, broadsheets often contained multiple images on a single page, but did not recount an original narrative, usually depicting instead well-known legends or events, and, while Hogarth’s print series did recount original narratives, each image was printed on a separate sheet. If we define a Bande Dessinée as a single page or series of pages, each containing multiple frames of images narrating an original story, then Töpffer undoubtedly created the first such works. Töpffer drew his first, Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois, in 1827, but did not publish it until ten years later, so his Histoire de Mr. Jabot [Fig. 1] became, in 1835, the first published Bande Dessinée2. Nonetheless, despite recent interest in later, particularly recent, manifestations, there has been relatively little scholarship on its early history. Art history has only recently begun to include the study of caricature, while the serious study of Bandes Dessinées has barely begun.


Fig. 1: Rodolphe Töpffer, Histoire de Mr. Jabot, pl. 1, 1833, lithographie, Genève, J. Freydig.

3And yet the Bande Dessinée is one of the most widely-disseminated examples of visual print culture in the modern era. Whether called comic strips, Bandes Dessinées, albums comiques or graphic novels, these works constitute a hybrid medium combining art and literature. Until recently, they were dismissed from serious consideration by scholars in both areas. Töpffer recognized the hybridity of the medium and called his works « la littérature en estampes3 ». He also understood the prejudice against vernacular forms of both arts; fearful of damaging his reputation as a respectable schoolmaster, he held back publication of his works for several years, preferring instead to circulate them privately4. Because of their hybrid nature, such works should be investigated as both art and as literature. Here, however, I would like to consider them only in terms of their formal innovations in order to focus on the visual conventions invented by early Bande Dessinée artists which, still in use today, created a language parallel to, but distinct from, that of painting, illustration, and even caricature.

4By the mid-nineteenth century, most of the visual conventions of the Bande Dessinée had been invented by Töpffer and his French followers. Although two of the major French caricaturists, Daumier and Grandville, had no interest in this new genre, others, such as Cham (1818-1879) and Gustave Doré (1832-1883), adopted it immediately and transformed Töpffer’s invention. This can be shown by surveying the genre from Töpffer’s first album in 1827 to the publication in 1854 of Gustave Doré’s Histoire dramatique, pittoresque et caricaturale de la sainte Russie, the longest Bande Dessinée of the nineteenth century5. Sainte Russie contains five hundred drawings arranged on more than two hundred pages, and can be seen as marking the close of the second chapter in the creation of the modern Bande Dessinée, Töpffer himself having written the first. The influence of the Bandes Dessinées of these three decades can be seen not only in its subsequent history, but even in early cinema, another new medium that sought solutions to the problem of sequential visual narration.

5Töpffer published his work in horizontal albums whose pages each contained one tier of images comprised of one or more panels, sometimes called frames or vignettes. As a result, his stories must be read in a linear, horizontal mode. Below the panels on each drawing, he handwrote his captions so that his published works have the appearance of a hand-written journal, unlike the English tradition of the speech balloon [phylactère] used in caricatures by Thomas Rowlandson and his successors. The entire sequence of drawings was reproduced as an album in pen lithography using transfer paper, a method that did not reverse the drawings as would normal lithography and wood engraving. Töpffer’s stories themselves owe much to The Tour of Doctor Syntax (1812), whose images by Thomas Rowlandson and text by William Combe were the first to break with the moralizing tradition of Hogarth. The Tour of Doctor Syntax, however, included only one or two images for each chapter of text, akin to traditional book illustration, while Töpffer’s stories were told entirely through images with only minimal text. Töpffer’s stories were all organized around loose narratives of adventures, and, as literature, they should be understood within the tradition of the picaresque novel, in which the protagonist gœs from one adventure to another with little development of character or plot. In terms of narrative strategies, these works differ markedly from the albums of lithographs, illustrations, or caricatures that had been popular in France and elsewhere for several decades6. Earlier albums had presented each image individually, not as part of a sequential narration and, even when images were linked by a common theme such as travel, each could be read and enjoyed in isolation from its neighbors. Töpffer’s albums, in contrast, offered lengthy narratives recounted in hundreds of panels filling anywhere from forty to more than ninety pages. His drawing style differed markedly from traditional illustrational styles in that it was more abstract, almost cursory; volume and space are indicated (if at all) only by line. Despite these differences, his treatment of events was very like that of illustration of the period, ultimately based on conventions adopted from painting. In Töpffer’s work, the viewer is situated at a middle distance, a neutral observer of the events depicted. There are no distortions of scale, no close-up views, no departures from his set drawing style. While varying the width of his panels, Töpffer always maintained the boxed grid format with handwritten text below. His stories are told through human agency alone, with events depicted from the point of view of the reader, not the protagonist. Only in his last album, Histoire d’Albert, published in 1845, the year before his death, did he make a significant departure from his style, creating the accordion-like images [Fig. 2, ci-contre] that have since become celebrated as an index of his formal innovation7.

6While I am not disputing Töpffer’s primacy in the creation of the Bande Dessinée, I do want to point out that, if we examine early Bandes Dessinées solely in formal terms, we will find that many of the visual conventions since become familiar were invented only gradually. This parallel language of signs and symbols developed in France from the late 1830s to the 1850s, and from there spread to other European and American countries. Before the mid-nineteenth century, the rest of Europe and the Americas had broadsheets and caricature, illustrated books and print series, but, outside of Switzerland, only France had a viable tradition of Bandes Dessinées. French artists adopted Töpffer’s new narrative mode and then completed the transformation from illustration based on painting to the modern language of the Bande Dessinée.


Fig. 2: Rodolphe Töpffer, Histoire d’Albert, pl. 23, 1845, lithographie, Genève, Schmidt.

7Soon after their publication, Töpffer’s innovative comic albums circulated throughout Europe and the United States, in plagiarized as well as authorized editions. Until the adoption of the Berne Convention of 1886, there was no international copyright law, and so publishers were free to pirate literary works from other countries. As a result, Töpffer’s Bandes Dessinées had their earliest influence in France. There, in 1839, the Parisian firm of Aubert&Cie, established ten years earlier by the caricaturist Charles Philipon (1800-1862) with his half-sister Marie-Françoise-Madeleine Philipon and her husband Gabriel Aubert, published plagiarized editions of three of Töpffer’s albums, Mr. Vieux Bois, Mr. Jabot and Mr. Crépin8. In view of the number of additional albums of Bandes Dessinées that Aubert subsequently published, eight in the following four years, this must have seemed a promising new art form. Aubert titled these works its Collection des Jabots, named after Töpffer’s first published album9. The albums probably didn’t sell very well, however, because between 1842, the year when Aubert published the tenth and eleventh (Histoire du prince Colibri et de la fée Caperdulaboula and Aventures de Télémaque, fils d’Ulysse, both by Cham), and the very end of 1847 when the last of the collection, Gustave Doré’s Les Travaux d’Hercule, was published, there were no additional albums in this series10. Aubert did continue to publish collections of individual caricatures, however, often on a single theme but with no continuous narrative. It is not difficult to understand why these early Bandes Dessinées had only a limited success: though ephemeral literature, they demanded too much concentration from the reader and really needed to be read at one sitting, while albums of collected caricatures, in contrast, could be enjoyed even if the reader had only a few moments available. Unlike Töpffer’s albums, which often satirized contemporary society and as such were intended more for adults than for children, the early French Bande Dessinée seemed to be an art form unsure of its audience. Too expensive and too long for children, the stories were not interesting enough to attract adults. Collections of individual caricatures were more sophisticated and topical and, as a result, proved more attractive to an adult audience.

8Each of the twelve comic albums published by Aubert in the Collection des Jabots has the same size and format, probably dictated by the publisher. Seven were written by the caricaturist Cham, the pseudonym of Amédée de Noé, who wrote his first two, L’Histoire de Mr. Lajaunisse, and Mr. Lamélasse, in 1839, when he was twenty-one years old11. An admirer of Töpffer, Cham later redrew the illustrations for Töpffer’s Mr. Cryptogame when it was published in the journal L’Illustration in 184512. While it is undeniable that Töpffer influenced French artists, it is also possible that French artists might well have influenced Töpffer’s later work, since many of the modern tropes of Bandes Dessinées made their first appearance in France. For example, the accordionlike images of Töpffer’s 1845 Histoire d’Albert, had appeared already in one of Aubert’s Collection des Jabots, the 1840 Histoire de Mr. de Vertpré et de sa ménagère aussi, often attributed to Cham but always listed in Aubert’s catalogues as by E. Forest13.

9The albums of the Collection des Jabots were reminiscent of Töpffer’s work in style and layout in that they utilized a horizontal format containing one or more boxed images in a single tier of panels reading from left to right with the text handwritten below. They even used pen lithography in emulation of Töpffer, although, since transfer paper was not used, the printed images were reversed. Cham’s style from the beginning, however, was more varied than Töpffer’s, showing more volumetric drawing and shading, as well as the beginnings of the abstract language familiar to us in modern Bandes Dessinées. In his comic albums, Cham varied the scale of objects to show their importance, as when Mr. Lamélasse’s servant carries a huge letter of invitation [Fig. 3, page suivante]. Cham was also the first to combine different drawing styles. While Töpffer always drew like Töpffer, Cham could, for example, draw like a child, as he did in Un Génie incompris (usually-but incorrectly-known as Monsieur Barnabé Gogo) [Fig. 4, page suivante], which recounts the life of an incompetent artist who, when only ten years old, « abordait le cheval au point de faire prendre ses dessins pour des Géricault14 ». Cham was also the first to expand the subjects of the Bande Dessinée from contemporary life to include parodies of literature, such as his Aventures de Télémaque. Perhaps the most influential of his innovations was his inclusion of an all-black vignette, when Mr. Lajaunisse blows out his candle and is left in darkness, and an all-white vignette, in Deux vieilles filles vaccinées à marier, where Cham states that he is too discreet to show the events. Although both had precedents in Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy of 1759-1767, Cham’s publication of these panels disseminated the visual convention widely in both caricature and Bandes Dessinées15.


Fig. 3: Cham, Histoire de Mr Lamelasse, pl. 1, 1839, lithographie, Paris, Aubert & Cie.


Fig. 4: Cham, Un Génie incompris [Monsieur Barnabé Gogo], pl. 5, 1841, lithographie, Paris, Aubert & Cie.

10In Cham’s first seven albums of Bandes Dessinées, he adhered to the boxed grid formula of the Töpffer/Aubert layout, but during the five years when Aubert had ceased publishing the Collection des Jabots (1842 to 1847), Cham created Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface, published in 1844 by Paulin16. Printed from wood engravings, this album maintained the horizontal format, but its dimensions were larger than those of previous Bandes Dessinées. Artistically, Mr. Boniface was the most ambitious Bande Dessinée after Töpffer’s own work, surpassed only a decade later by Gustave Doré’s 1854 Histoire dramatique, pittoresque et caricaturale de la sainte Russie. The differences between Mr. Boniface and Cham’s earlier albums are dramatic. In Mr. Boniface, Cham eliminated Töpffer’s handwritten text and replaced it with standard typeface; with this one change, he removed the Bande Dessinée from the realm of the artist’s book and brought it into the arena of the massducedproduced printed book, where it has resided ever since. In fact, the term Bande Dessinée becomes somewhat of a misnomer here, since his panels were rarely arranged in strip format. He eliminated the boxed frames and, instead of Töpffer’s single tier, he arranged each page of frames free-form to read either top to bottom, left to right, or some combination thereof, depending on the events depicted. This innovation allowed him to create for the reader a kinesthetic equivalent to the narrative. When Mr. Boniface is on a boring coach voyage, for example, the reader is forced to follow the endless landscape across the horizontal page [Fig. 5]. When he is seasick [Fig. 6, page suivante], we readers re-enact the pitching of the boat by reading up and down, up and down, up and down, until we share his misery. Cham even added to each chapter heading a short apocryphal epigram commenting on its panel, satirizing the pomposity of « serious » books (especially those of the Romantics) and underscoring the distance traveled by this new irreverent comic genre. Since each « chapitre » consists of only one image with a brief caption, Cham was also parodying the contemporaneous liter- ary mode for long, multi-chapter books, particularly travel memoirs.


Fig. 5: Cham, Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface, pl. 7, 1844, xylographie, Paris, Paulin.

11Chapter LXX shows Monsieur Boniface’s barking dog Azor, accompanied by the epigram « “Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, do”. – Rossini ». Chapter XL’s vignette of a ship’s deck strewn with seasick passengers is accompanied by the legend, « “Je souffre”. Un Romantique ».


Fig. 6: Cham, Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface, pl. 18, 1844, xylographie, Paris, Paulin.

12The frenetic rhythms of classic Bandes Dessinées make their appearance in Monsieur Boniface in a series of what in film technology are called « jumpcuts » [montage rapide], abrupt shifts of viewpoint, a narrative technique that dœs not appear in cinema until the twentieth century. Figure 7 shows Mr. Boniface’s view through his coach window where he sees only the coachman’s boots, an image made all the more poignant by the inclusion of the epigram, « “O nature ! Que tu es belle”. J. -J. Rousseau17 ». By abandoning Töpffer’s viewpoint of a neutral observer in favor of the highly-personal point of view of the protagonist, Cham has created a visual equivalent to the psychological transformation in literature that was also taking place during these decades, and that resulted in the modern novel.


Fig. 7: Cham, Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface, pl. 8, 1844, xylographie, Paris, Paulin.

13An inventory of the formal innovations that Cham introduced into the Bande Dessinée would be extensive, and would include the elimination of the boxed format, the substitution of typography for the hand-written text, the use of multiple tiers of frames in irregular formats, combinations of disparate styles, fragments, out-of-scale objects, different points of view, close-ups as well as distant views, and all-black or all-white panels. There is, however, still another precedent for the modern Bande Dessinée that must be addressed, namely a particularly French phenomenon called « Le Salon caricatural18 ».


Fig. 8: Bertall, « Le Salon de 1843 », Le Salon de 1843 (Ne pas confondre avec celui de l’artiste-éditeur Challamel, éditeur-artiste), 1843, xylographie, Paris, I. Rousset.

14Well before the arrival of the Bande Dessinée, there had been caricatures of individual paintings, of course, but only in the 1840s, and only in France, were these images combined into entire pages, often entire albums comiques devoted to that year’s Salon installation. The first was published in 1843 [Fig. 8], one year before Cham’s ground-breaking Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface. In that year, Bertall, the pseudonym of the caricaturist Albert d’Arnoux (1820-1882), produced his humorous « Le Salon de 184319 ». Bertall has received virtually no serious attention from scholars, and yet the format of the Salon in caricature that he originated was soon adopted by Cham, Nadar, Gustave Doré and numerous others, and continued in France throughout the nineteenth century. On a single page, artists could caricature a variety of paintings-history, portraiture, genre, landscape, still life-each with its own scale, subject, and style, and combine the images into the free-form layouts soon to be familiar in Bandes Dessinées [Fig. 9, page suivante]. These caricatured Salons gave artists the freedom to break free of the Töpffer/Aubert format since there were no strictures as to scale, style or narrative continuity, and the large pages of journals permitted an anarchistic layout of multiple frames. When the pages were handcolored, as many of them were, their resemblance to modern Bandes Dessinées is even more striking. In any case, the first Salons caricaturaux represent clear precedents for the free-wheeling combinations of imagery that soon appeared in French Bandes Dessinées.


Fig. 9: Gustave Doré, “Salon de 1848”, Le Journal pour rire, 25 mars 1848, xylographie, Paris, Aubert&Cie.

15Although Cham continued to produce albums comiques and Bandes Dessinées after Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface, none surpassed this volume. His later works, such as Soulouque et sa cour of 1850 or Les Aventures de monsieur Beaucoq of 1856, are more conventional both in drawing and in format20. After 1844, most of his production consisted of individual illustrations and caricatures, often published first in L’Illustration or Le Charivari, and then reissued as albums. He published over a hundred such albums as well as Salons caricaturaux, and continued to produce them until his death in 1879.

16It was the young Gustave Doré (1832-1883) who took up the Bande Dessinée, which, by 1847 had been abandoned by both Cham and by the Maison Aubert. Doré is the best-known illustrator of the nineteenth century, and yet his contributions to the development of the Bande Dessinée remain virtually unknown and unacknowledged, probably because his career as a caricaturist and Bande Dessinée artist lasted less than eight years, from late 1847 to 1854, from when he was 15 to 22 years of age. During this time he produced thousands of images and four full-length Bandes Dessinées21. When he wrote and drew Les Travaux d’Hercule, he was only 15 years old, but was already negotiating a contract to publish regularly in Philipon’s new journal, Le Journal pour rire. Hercule was the twelfth and last album in the Collection des Jabots; after that the collection ceased, although the Maison Aubert did publish two later albums of Bandes Dessinées by Doré in formats different from that of the earlier series.

17In many ways, Doré’s Les Travaux d’Hercule was already outmoded by the time it was published because it followed closely the Töpffer model of a spidery linear style of drawing executed in pen lithography, with a single tier of boxed frames. Cham had already abandoned this format three years earlier. Like Töpffer, Doré positioned the handwritten text beneath the frame, and the album is intended to be read horizontally. Töpffer’s subjects, however, had been contemporary, even politically charged, and he had never attempted a literary theme even in parody. In subject, Doré’s Les Travaux d’Hercule recalls Cham’s Aventures de Télémaque of 1842. It is not surprising that both young men chose to parody Greek mythology in the style of a lycée student, probably their intended audience, since the French educational system placed great emphasis on the classics.

18Despite Cham’s 14 years seniority over Doré, however, the younger man’s creation is more unified and wittier. Even in his first youthful effort, Doré was already showing his narrative gifts. He exploited the rhythm of turning pages with the element of surprise that a new page could bring. Thus, when Hercule attempted to clean the Augean stables, a turn of the page showed him sinking into the mire. Despite the visual innovations of Töpffer, Cham, and Doré, however, modern viewers might notice that what was missing in all the early Bandes Dessinées are the « speed lines » that have since become the standard sign for rapid motion in Bandes Dessinées. In Töpffer’s work, and even in the early pages of Les Travaux d’Hercule, figures do not look like they are moving at all, but seem to be frozen in space. Doré actually invented the convention of speed lines later in Les Travaux d’Hercule where he depicts Cacus vomiting forth whirlwinds of flame [Fig. 10]. These speed lines have since become one of the most characteristic visual signs in the language of the Bande Dessinée.


Fig. 10: Gustave Doré, Les Travaux d’Hercule, pl. 36, 1847, lithographie, Paris, Aubert & Cie.

19Doré published three additional Bandes Dessinées after Les Travaux d’Hercule. In 1850-1851, Aubert published two of his albums, Trois artistes incompris et mécontens and Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément22. Their style and formats differed markedly from that of the by-then defunct Collection des Jabots since both were executed in lithographic crayon instead of pen lithography, resulting in a more illusionistic rendering. In Trois artistes, Doré abandoned boxed frames and handwritten legends, as Cham had done earlier in his Mr. Boniface, and he adopted the vertical page layout used in illustrated journals such as Le Charivari and Le Journal pour rire instead of the oblong album format long associated with comic albums. It was in Dés-agréments, however, where he first displayed the imaginative leaps characteristic of his later Sainte Russie.


Fig. 11: Gustave Doré, Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément, pl. 10, 1851, lithographie, Paris, Aubert & Cie.


Fig. 12: Gustave Doré, Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément, pl. 21, 1851, lithographie, Paris, Aubert&Cie.

20Dés-agréments, reprinted three times and still in print today, was the most successful of Doré’s first three albums. Its most extraordinary frame [Fig. 11] exploits shifts in scale in an unprecedented way. Doré recounts how his artist-protagonist, César Plumet, was drawing a local inhabitant of the Swiss Alps who slipped and stepped on his drawing. The page shows the result of this mishap: Doré’s drawing of Plumet’s drawing marred by a huge footprint across its surface Later, when a cow licks Plumet’s drawing, Doré draws the cow’s huge muzzle and tongue looming over the tiny artist and drawing [Fig. 12]. In both panels, he shatters the illusionistic window and normative perspective that had governed art production from the Renaissance. Nor are Doré’s stories told only through figures; now all kinds of visual imagery, objects, or even designs carry the story line forward. He draws frames that are not even « art », showing a close-up of Monsieur Plumet’s account book [Fig. 13] or his crossed-out sketchbook drawing [Fig. 11]. When Mme Plumet looks through her telescope, Doré shows us what she sees, in an extraordinary plate of six circular drawings [Fig. 14], one even showing the fly that has landed on her telescope lens. With this Bande Dessinée, the last ties to traditional figure-centered illustration are severed in order to advance the narrative by all means available. Images expand and contract across the pages; on turning the page one can’t be certain what one will find, sometimes a full-page drawing, sometimes up to 18 tiny ones. On occasion, readers cannot even be certain of the order in which the frames should be read. In addition, Doré’s Bande Dessinée becomes self-referential in terms of formal innovations, and he begins to establish a historiography of caricature and the Bande Dessinée. He quotes Cham’s all-black panels (when Mme Plumet looks through her telescope in figure 14) as well as the figurative musical compositions of Grandville [Fig. 13], instantly recognizable to his readers.


Fig. 13: Gustave Doré, Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément, pl. 19, 1851, lithographie, Paris, Aubert & Cie.


Fig. 14: Gustave Doré, Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément, pl. 16, 1851, lithographie, Paris, Aubert & Cie.

21Nothing, however, prepares us for Doré’s last foray into the world of the Bande Dessinée, his 1854 Histoire dramatique, pittoresque et caricaturale de la sainte Russie. Doré was then still a young man, only 22, when he wrote and drew this work, whose exuberance and sheer anarchy set it off from all previous examples of the genre. It was not published by Aubert, but by J. Bry aîné, who probably subsidized it since, despite its being the most ambitious Bande Dessinée of the nineteenth century, with five hundred vignettes spread over 207 pages, it sold for only 4 francs, cheaper even than the much more modest albums of the Collection des Jabots. It represents not only the culmination of Doré’s work in this medium, but also the culmination of the second phase of Bandes Dessinées and an introduction to the modern graphic novel.

22In Sainte Russie, Doré returned again to the vertical format that brought these comic books further into alignment with traditional books. He abandoned the crayon lithography in which he had drawn his two previous albums of Bandes Dessinées in favor of wood engraving, a medium in which Cham had preceded him and in which Doré would work for the rest of his life. His team of engravers was led by Eugène-Nol Sotain (1816-1874), who even received star billing on the book’s front cover23.

23Sainte Russie was published during the Crimean War, and took full advantage of the contemporary interest in all things Russian24. Purporting to narrate the history of Russia, Doré takes the reader from the beginnings of recorded history (indicated by an all-black frame), to 1854 where he predicts French success in the Crimean War. His text is in the tradition of English humorous « histories », such as Gilbert Abbott à Beckett’s The Comic History of England with illustrations by John Leech25. Doré’s text follows closely the actual events in the history of Russia, utilizing word/image counterpoint with numerous panels commenting on the text. For example, a progressively more boring account of the origins of the Russian people is shown slowly being swallowed up by ink [Fig. 15]. No one earlier had so closely incorporated text with image.

24Although much could (and should) be written on this masterpiece of the art of the Bande Dessinée, it is Doré’s formal innovations that are most important here. His most striking formal innovation, already introduced in Dés-agréments, is his combination of numerous artistic styles into a tour de force of Bande Dessinée art. His homage to Cham includes not only all-black frames, but also a page of all-white ones where, he tells us, the events are too boring to depict26. There are several citations from Grandville, whom he obviously admired; he borrowed Grandville’s figurative artist’s pencil, and once again utilized his musical motif27. The distinctive contour style of the English artist Richard Doyle, who drew for Punch, appears in several panels, often in combination with other styles, and Doré also parodied the mid-century interest in folk art by drawing in the style of Images d’Épinal [Fig. 16]28. He even borrowed from Töpffer’s Le Docteur Festus his map of the fictitious land of Ginvernais [Fig. 17], remaking it into a map of Russia [Fig. 18] and giving each region a satirical name such as Brutaslaw or Vaniteslaw29. It is interesting that the only occasions in Sainte Russie on which Doré utilized a standard grid format were those where it demands to be read as satire, where, for example, the uniformity of the frames underscores the boring, repetitive nature of the events narrated by the text. The most dramatic images in this album, however, which appeared in only a few copies, are those where the relentless black and white of the text and illustrations are shattered by two pages stained red to symbolize the violence and bloodshed of the czars [Fig. 19]30.

25By combining panels of different styles, subjects, and scale on a single page or in a sequence of pages, Doré achieved a tour de force of the graphic arts. His Histoire dramatique, pittoresque et caricaturale de la sainte Russie is a summation of the art of the Bande Dessinée invented by Rodolphe Töpffer and transformed by French artists over two decades.

26Unfortunately for the history of the Bande Dessinée, Doré, like Cham before him, abandoned the medium. Early Bande Dessinée artists found their work ill-paid and undervalued, so it is no surprise that they so often took their talents elsewhere. Soon after the publication of Sainte Russie, Doré’s illustrations to Rabelais were published and were greeted with such acclaim that he decided to devote himself henceforth to the more prestigious media of painting and book illustration. After this initial period of innovation, Bandes Dessinées actually became more conservative, and yet each of these early artists, Töpffer, Cham, and Doré, contributed to the establishment of the visual language of the Bande Dessinée, from Töpffer who invented « la littérature en estampes », to Cham, who created many of their familiar visual conventions, to Doré, who, by deliberately transgressing all the newly-established Bande Dessinée traditions, established it as a subversive medium that obeys no rules, a definition still applicable today in the twenty-first century.


28An earlier version of this paper was given under the title « Gustave Doré et le roman graphique » at the colloquium « Caricature: Bilan et recherches », held December 11-12, 2006 at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris, sponsored by the Centre d’histoire de l’art et d’histoire des représentations de l’université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense and by the Institut Universitaire de France. I thank Ségolène Le Men, who organized the colloquium, Stephen Edidin, Madeleine Fidell-Beaufort, Stuart Liebman, Raphaël Rosenberg, Petra ten-Dosschate Chu, and Rose-Carol Washton-Long, all of whom have aided this project in various ways. Brief synopses of this research were presented as « Gustave Doré and the Graphic Novel » in the session « Gustave Doré: Revisiting a Once-Famed Artist », chaired by Lisa Small and Eric Zafran on February 14, 2007 at the College Art Association Annual Conference in New York City, and as « The Invention of the Comic Book » at the Bibliographic Society of America colloquium « The Birth of the Bestseller » in New York City on March 30, 2007. A related article appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide as « The Invention of Comics ». I am grateful to the Research Foundation of the City University of New York and to the Institut national d’histoire de l’art for their support, which has greatly facilitated my research.

Notes de bas de page

1 . Kunzle David, History of the Comic Strip, 2 vol., Berkeley, Cal., 1973-1990. I (and all scholars working on the subject) owe a profound debt of gratitude to David Kunzle for his ground-breaking panoramic survey of the medium through numerous centuries and countries.

2 . Töpffer Rodolphe, Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois, Geneva, J. Frutiger, 1837; Töpffer Rodolphe, L’Histoire de Mr. Jabot, Geneva, J. Freydig, 1833. Although the Jabot album is dated 1833, Töpffer wrote that it was actually published in 1835; see R. T. [Töpffer Rodolphe], « Notice sur l’Histoire de Mr. Jabot », originally published in La Bibliothèque universelle de Genève, n ° 18, juin 1837, p. 334-337, and reprinted in Grœnsteen Thierry et Peeters Benoît (dir.), Töpffer, L’Invention de la Bande Dessinée, Paris, Hermann, 1994, p. 161-163. The literature on Töpffer is extensive; Gronsteen and Peeters reprinted the artist’s own writings on « littérature en estampes », and included a chronology and bibliography. David Kunzle has recently published Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer, Jackson, Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 2007, and an English translation of Töpffer’s work, Rodolphe Töpffer: The Complete Comic Strips, Jackson, Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 2007. A complete list of Töpffer’s comic albums includes: Histoire de Mr. Jabot [written in 1831], 1835; Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois [written in 1827], 1837; Mr. Crépin, 1837; Le Docteur Festus [begun in 1829], 1840, Monsieur Pencil [begun in 1831], 1840; Histoire de Monsieur Cryptogame [begun in 1830], 1845; Histoire d’Albert [written in 1844], 1845. An eighth, Mr. Trictrac, was not published until 1937.

3 . Töpffer used the term in his « Réflexions à propos d’un programme », reprinted in Grœnsteen Thierry et Peeters Benoît (dir.), Töpffer. L’Invention de la Bande Dessinée, op. cit., p. 144- 160; see p. 150.

4 . This was stated by Töpffer’s earliest biographers, Blondel Auguste, Rodolphe Töpffer, l’écrivain, l’artiste et l’homme, Paris, Hachette, 1886, and Relave Pierre-Maxime, La Vie et les œuvres de Töpffer, Paris, Hachette, 1886; see Kunzle David, Father of the Comic Strip: Rodophe Töpffer, op. cit., p. 57-58, for a brief summary of the evidence.

5 . Doré Gustave, Histoire dramatique, pittoresque et caricaturale de la sainte Russie, Paris, J. Bry aîné, 1854.

6 . See Mainardi Patricia, « Des débuts de la caricature lithographique à la Restauration », in Mollier Jean-Yves, Reid Martine, Yon Jean-Claude (dir.), (Re) Penser la Restauration, Paris, Éditions du nouveau monde, 2005, p. 211-22. Ségolène Le Men has written extensively about the transformation of albums from children’s literature to adult literature; see, in particular, « De l’image au livre: L’Éditeur Aubert et l’abédédaire en estampe », in Nouvelles de l’estampe, n ° 90, déc. 1986, p. 17-30, and « Quelques définitions romantiques de l’album », in Art et métiers du livre, n ° 143, février 1987, p. 40-47.

7 . Töpffer Rodolphe, Histoire d’Albert, par Simon de Nantua, Geneva, Schmidt, 1845.

8 . Mr. Crépin, Geneva, J. Frutiger, 1837; on Mr. Vieux Bois and Mr. Jabot, see note 1 above. The plagiarized Paris editions were all printed under the Aubert & Cie name. On the Maison Aubert, see Cuno James, « Charles Philipon, La Maison Aubert and the Business of Caricature in Paris, 1829- 1841 », in Art Journal, n ° 43, Winter 1983, p. 347-354, et Charles Philipon and La Maison Aubert: The Business, Politics and Public of Caricature in Paris, 1820-1840, Ph. D. diss., Harvard University, 1985.

9 . The catalogue Aubert et Cie, éditeurs, Place de la Bourse, 29, à Paris [1846] lists the following titles under the heading « Livres et albums comiques »: « M. Jabot. Aventures d’un fat, joli album oblong. / M. Crépin. Différents systèmes d’éducation. / M. Vieux-Bois. Tribulations amoureuses d’un vieux fat. / M. Lajaunisse. Malheurs d’un beau garcon, par Cham (de N.) / M. Lamélasse. Histoire d’un épicier, par Cham (de N.) / M. de Vertpré. Employé retraité, par E. Forest. / M. Jobart. Mésaventures d’un homme naïf, par Cham (de N.) / Deux vieilles filles à marier. Tribulations de famille, par Cham (de N.) / Un Génie incompris. Persécutions artistiques, par Cham (de N.) / Le Prince Colibri et la Fée Caperdulaboula, conte de fée, par Cham (de N.) / Télémaque, fils d’Ulysse, par feu M. de Fénélon et Cham (de N.). /Ces onze albums, connus sous le nom de Collection des Jabots, figurent sur toutes les tables des salons parisiens. Prix de chaque. 6 fr. ». The catalogue Étrennes de 1849, Publications d’Aubert et Cie, éditeurs, Place de la Bourse, 29, à Paris [1848], lists « Travaux d’Hercule. Album dans le genre des Jabot-Crépin et autres du même format, par G. Doré. Prix 6 fr. Net 5 fr. » The collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale is incomplete, lacking the 1847 catalogue. The cover of Cham’s Un Genie incompris lacks a title, and the album has since become known as Monsieur Barnabé Gogo after the protagonist.

10 . Cham, Histoire du prince Colibri et de la fée Caperdulaboula, Paris, Aubert & Cie, 1842; Cham, Aventures de Télémaque, fils d’Ulysse, Paris, Aubert & Cie, 1842; Doré Gustave, Les Travaux d’Hercule, Paris, Aubert & Cie, 1847.

11 . On Cham, see Ribeyre Félix, Cham, Sa vie et son œuvre, Paris, E. Pon, Nourrit & Cie, 1884, and Kunzle David, « Cham, the ‘Popular’ Caricaturist », in Gazette des beaux-arts, décembre 1980, p. 213-224.

12 . A wood-engraved version of Mr. Cryptogame was published in L’Illustration, Journal Universel as « Histoire de M. Cryptogame, par l’auteur de M. Vieux-Bois, de M. Jabot, de M. Crépin, du Docteur Festus, etc. » Publication began on 25 janvier 1845 and concluded on 19 avril 1845. Not only were Töpffer’s images reversed, but they were published in three tiers per page without their boxed formats and with some frames omitted.

13 . Forest E., Histoire de Mr. de Vertpré et de sa ménagère aussi, Paris, Aubert & Cie, 1840. E. Forest was probably Eugène Forest (1808-?), a caricaturist of the period who contributed to the same journals as Cham. David Kunzle has identified him as Edmond Forest, but there are no prints or publications in the Bibliothèque Nationale by an artist of that name; see Kunzle David, History of the Comic Strip, op. cit., t. 2, p. 85. Aubert often inserted advertisements for his Collection des Jabots in Le Journal pour rire, which listed E. Forest as author, as did his own catalogues, cited in note 9 above.

14 . The album lacked a title page, but Aubert’s catalogues always listed it as Un Génie incompris. Persécutions artistiques, par Cham (de N.).

15 . I am grateful to Raphaël Rosenberg for drawing my attention to these earlier precedents in Sterne Laurence, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767). The all-white pages appear in volume 6, chapter 38; volume 9, chapters 18 and 19. The all-black pages are in volume 1 between Chapters 12 and 13. Sterne’s work is also cited in this context by Moliterni Claude (dir.), Histoire mondiale de la Bande Dessinée, Paris, Pierre Horay, 1989, p. 20.

16 . Cham, Impressions de voyage de Monsieur Boniface, Ex-réfractaire de la 4e du 5e de la 10e, Paris, Paulin, Libraire-Éditeur, 1844. Besides having his own publishing firm, Jean-Baptiste Paulin was the editor of L’Illustration, founded the previous year. Cham had already begun to contribute caricatures to this new weekly periodical.

17 . « Chapitre XIX ».

18 . The most thorough study, including an extensive bibliography, is Chadefaux Marie-Claude, « Le Salon caricatural de 1846 et les autres salons caricaturaux », in Gazette des beaux-arts, mars 1968, p. 161-176; see also the Musée d’Orsay exhibition catalogue Chabanne Thierry, Les Salons caricaturaux, Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990.

19 . Bertall, « Le Salon de 1843 (Ne pas confondre avec celui de l’artiste-éditeur Challamel, éditeur-artist). Apendice au Livret. Représenté par 37 copies de Bertal (sic.) », published first in Omnibus, 7e livraison [1843], and then reissued by the publisher Ildefonse Rousset that same year.

20 . See Cham, Soulouque et sa cour, Paris, Le Charivari, 1850; Cham, Les Aventures de monsieur Beaucoq, ex-rosier de Nanterre, Paris, Arnauld de Vresse, 1856. Cham also produced several Bandes Dessinées in Charivari in 1844-1845 that were then reissued as albums by Aubert: Impressions lithographiques de voyage, par MM. Trottman et Cham, Voyage de Paris en Amérique, and Voyage de M. Trottman en Belgique, en Hollande, en Russie et en Angleterre.

21 . On Gustave Doré’s Bandes Dessinées, see Leblanc Henri, Catalogue de l’œuvre complet de Gustave Doré, Paris, Charles Bosse, 1931; Forberg Gabriele, Gustave Doré: Das Graphische Werk, 2 vol., Munich, Rogner und Bernhard, 1975; Renonciat Annie, La Vie et l’œuvre de Gustave Doré, Paris, ACR, 1983; 9 e Art, Les Cahiers de la Bande Dessinée 3, janvier 1998. David Kunzle devoted a chapter of his History of the Comic Strip to Doré; see Kunzle David, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 123-134.

22 . Doré Gustave, Trois artistes incompris et mécontens. Leur voyage en province. et ailleurs !! Leur faim dévorante et leur déplorable fin, Paris, Aubert & Cie, 1850; Doré Gustave, Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément, Paris, Aubert & Cie., 1851.

23 . The cover text reads: « Histoire dramatique, pittoresque et caricaturale de la sainte Russie, d’après les chroniquers Nikon, Nestor, Sylvestre, Karamsin, Ségur, etc., etc., etc./Commentée et illustrée par 500 magnifiques gravures par Gustave Doré/Gravées sur bois par toute la nouvelle école sous la direction générale de Sotain/Graveur de l’Histoire de Russie, de batailles, de portraits, de paysages, de genre, de fleurs, d’animaux, de crustacés et de plantes rares. »

24 . The illustrated press was full of commentary about the war and several collections of caricatures were republished as albums after first having appeared in journals such as Le Charvari. To cite only two: Messieurs les Cosaques. Relation charivarique, comique et surtout véridique des hauts faits des Russes en Orient. Par MM. Taxile Delord, Clément, Carraguel et Louis Huart. 100 vignettes par Cham, Paris, Plon, 1854; Les Cosaques pour rire. Album de quarante caricatures par MM. Cham, Daumier & Charles Vernier, Paris, Le Charivari, 1854.

25 . See Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, The Comic History of England: From Julius Caesar to George II, 2 vol., London, Punch, 1847-1848. John Leech did two hundred illustrations for the edition, but they are dispersed throughout the two volumes, with only one or two in each chapter.

26 . The all-black vignettes appear on plates 2 and 31; plate 7 contains five all-white vignettes.

27 . Grandville’s musical motif is used in plate 179, his figurative artist’s pencil in plate 123.

28 . Richard Doyle’s work was often plagiarized by French illustrated journals; throughout 1849, Doré published dozens of illustrations in Doyle’s style in Le Journal pour rire.

29 . Some of Doré’s other regional names include Personalitaslaw, Bétissgorod, Furiroslaw, Honteslaw. See also Töpffer Rodolphe, Le Docteur Festus, Geneva, Schmidt, 1840, plate 88, printed as page 1. Although Töpffer labels Angleterre as Rondeterre instead on his map, he never really exploited the comic possibilities of regional names.

30 . No doubt it was the expense that prevented all the examples of this album from being hand-colored since albums with hand-colored prints sold for considerably more than those with only black-and-white prints.

Précédent Suivant

Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence Licence OpenEdition Books. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.