Making faces: caricature, tradition & periodical culture from Victorian to Modern

Binckes, F (2015) Making faces: caricature, tradition & periodical culture from Victorian to Modern. In: Making It New: Victorian and Modernist Literature and Periodicals 1875-1935, 28 February 2015, De Montfort University.


This paper analysed the popularity of visual caricatures in identifiably modernist periodicals (most notably, The New Age, Rhythm, and Coterie). It is argued that these figures represent a form of modernist ‘novelty’, as recently outlined by Michael North and Aaron Jaffe. However, more attention will be paid to the ways in which these ‘novel’ images allowed periodical texts to synthesise and to transform various aspects of the encyclopaedic nineteenth-century print culture they had inherited. On one hand, caricature could be associated with British satirical publications (such as Punch), on another, it indicated an equally popular but seemingly less parochial Continental tradition (as in Jugend). Caricatures were a staple of newspapers—featuring in some of the very cheapest—but they had also been adopted and adapted by Beardsley on the pages of The Yellow Book and The Savoy in the mid-late 1890s. By the end of the nineteenth century, these caricatures had themselves been caricatured, by the likes of Le Petit Journal des Refusées. The ambivalent position of both genres was indicated by Walter Benjamin in ‘Baudelaire in the Second Empire’. Here, Benjamin argued at length for the significance of the ‘feuillton’ and the ‘physiologie’ to the modernity of the period, before going on to dismiss them both as shallow and compromised. This ambivalence might even be said to exist in the ‘caricature’ itself, in which the individual becomes both more generic, and more distinctive, in the same representational gesture. As such, these seemingly ephemeral images momentarily illuminated key issues concerning the negotiation of identity in an emerging modernist field, whether that identity was of an individual publication, the wider movement it represented, or the individual or individuals depicted.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: caricature, periodicals, modernism, novelty
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2015 20:43
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:39
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