5 JUNE 1971, Page 23


Commune market


In an attempt to com- bat the boredom [of the sieges of Paris] news- papers were more in de- mand than ever. Every rumour, however pre- posterous, was seized upon and blown into a major item of news and the Government even encouraged obscene articles and caricatures concerning the former Emperor and Em- press.' Naughty government! But my guess is that the caricatures did their bit in re- lieving boredom. The Victoria and Albert Museum has selected 140 lithographs (from a collection of 1,971 which have been in the museum's possession since 1887) and moun- ted an exhibition called The Franco-Prussian War and The Commune in caricature- 1870-71. It could give a new lease on life to those jaded by and grown weary of the Juvenile prurience churned out by our 'un- derground' press. Even in these days of in- toxicating permissiveness, we don't see such irreverent treatment of political leaders.

The events that led up to the Franco- Prussian war, the war itself, and the Paris Commune inspired these caricature-cartoons. No punches are pulled in the merciless and witty criticism of the leaders and events of the time. Poor Napoleon in and his Empress Eugenie were spared no humiliation—the lady appearing in one instance as a carmin- ating cow, her husband as the rear end of a pig. The caricatures are precise—no Scar- flan distended features challenging us to puzzle out whose distorted face this might be. The personal habits as well as the follies of the politicians suffer a scrutiny that would make the current captains of our fate think twice before entering the arena of public service; and the drawings are beautifully detailed. Daumier the fine artist becomes Daumier the fine caricaturist; images em- erge from the light and dark, line serving as an accent, and irony making the point the more memorable. Zut, Moloch, Alfred Le Petit—sociologists of the day filling their drawings with textures and tones composed of cross-hatched and swirling lines. The humour is often outrageous, cruel, intelli- gent, always dead on target.

Arnold Bocklin is also a bit outrageous He shares a triple bill at the Hayward Gal- lery with fellow Swiss nineteenth-century Painter Ferdinand Hodler, and twentieth- century sculptor Henri Laurens. Bkicklin's work has never been shown before in this country and his romantic preoccupation with the mythological—naiads, centaurs, and Pan—as well as. with ladies hidden in the shrubbery should provide visitors to the Hay- ward with something to wonder about. His work was admired by surrealists Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dali, and one can see why in paintings like The Island of the head and Breakers on the Shore, just one step away from the ludicrous with a bizarre quality that will either make you laugh or admire the artist's imagination.

Hodler's pictures, less operatic than Bock- fin's, are easier to warm to. His famous allegorical Night is a fine example of his classical technique; the bodies are impres- sively realistic. The mountain paintings and

portraits of his later period are freer in style, not necessarily better paintings, but interesting to see as a development in his work. Similarly, the development of Henri Laurens is satisfyingly arranged in the ex- hibition of his pictures and sculptures. His early cubist sculptures translate quite liter- ally the idea of Picasso and Braque paint- ings into the three-dimensional world of sculpture, and his drawings are delightful impressions of the free movement to be found in his later work. 'I aspire to ripeness of form. I should like to succeed in making it so full, so juicy, that nothing could be added.' Laurens's figures are very ripe, very juicy; he would have been pleased with the organisation of his work at the Hayward.