Laughing Your Head Off: Six Centuries of Graphic Satire

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This theme has never been presented in France. This exhibition at the Tomi Ungerer Museum fills this gap by showing original drawings and prints from various French and foreign public institutions.

The exhibition “Laughing Your Head Off: Six Centuries of Graphic Satire”, presented at the Tomi Ungerer Museum-International Centre for Illustration, fills a glaring gap. Indeed, no exhibition on this topic has ever been held at a museum in France. Since it opened in 2007, the Strasbourg museum has continued to present the history of every type of illustration. This show features nearly 200 original works and documents from private collections and from many museums and libraries across Europe. Graphic satire was already present in ancient times, and then in the Middle Ages, but it wasn’t until the Renaissance that, boosted by the invention of engraving and printing, it truly flourished. The constructs of this type of satire, ranging from allegory to metamorphosis, hit the mark, spawning numerous variations involving caricatures and the grotesque. It then became an ideological weapon based on images, in the religious conflicts between Protestants and Catholics. Since that time, it has continued to reflect the Western social, political and religious context, while periodically being subject to censorship. From the Protestant Reformation to the 18th century, graphic satire reached the highest levels of visual impact. Beginning in the 19th century, particularly in France, the growth of the press and the development of lithography favoured the expansion of this means of expression, which became widespread across all media. From the 20th century to the present day, its themes have resonated due to the violence of certain images, reflecting contemporary preoccupations. Whether they were well-known or obscure, many artists—from Goya to Ungerer, from Grandville to Steinberg and from Stimmer to Weiditz—satirized their times. Across the centuries, this exhibition confronts them with one another in dialogues that are sometimes surprising, but always compelling.

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