Charles Philipon (19 April 1800 – 25 January 1861). Born in Lyon, he was a French lithographer, caricaturist and journalist. He was the editor of the La Caricature and of Le Charivari, both satirical political journals.
He began his career in Paris during the summer of 1824 as a lithographer and part-time caricaturist. In the fall of 1829 he became a publisher and editor in an effort to save his family from financial destitution. He set up a printselling business with his brother-in-law, Gabriel Aubert. Using a stock of two caricatures drawn by Philipon and a handful of lithographs from printsellers he worked for, they rented a small boutique on the Passage Véro-Dodat and established La Maison Aubert. As the growing business demanded increasing amounts of time, Philipon gradually sacrificed his artistic career.
In October 1829 Philipon launched a career in journalism as a co-founder of La Silhouette. He made a minor financial investment and became a contributor without final editorial control. La Silhouette was the first French newspaper to regularly publish prints and illustrations, giving them equal or greater importance than the written text. Each issue satirized political and literary events of the day and included lithographs by the best-known graphic artists in Paris.
La Silhouette was published from 24 December 1829 to 2 January 1831. It became the prototype for similar publications published in France throughout the 19th century. La Silhouette was initially known as a moderate journal in a time of intense political debate. Some of the staff had been jailed for publishing works critical of the government while others held more conservative views. Over time, the publication’s editorial sympathies became increasingly radical.
Strict government censorship prevented La Silhouette from publishing caricatures aimed directly at politicians – except for a small woodcut of the king (Charles X of France) by Philipon that was surreptitiously inserted within the text of the 1 April 1830 issue. The newspaper had never included engravings in this way before and it was overlooked by the censors who were concentrating on the issues’s lithographs. The publication caused a scandal – with an intensity that reflected the rarity of political caricature before the Revolution – and the editor was eventually sentenced to six months in prison and fined 1,000 francs. Philipon, who had carefully left the caricature unsigned, escaped the scandal’s repercussions.
The censors were circumvented in later issues when the editors wrote bitterly critical partisan commentaries and attached them to seemingly innocuous images. In the May and June issues of 1830, this tactic was used to address a variety of political themes through a series of animal scenes by JJ Grandville (Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard). In an issue that immediately preceded the July Revolution, Honoré Daumier contributed a non-specific battlefield image that was given an explicit political message by an editor.
He was the director of the satirical political newspapers La Caricature and of Le Charivari which included lithographs by some of France’s leading caricaturists including JJ Grandville (Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard), Honoré Daumier, Paul Gavarni, Charles-Joseph Traviès, Benjamin Roubaud and others. The artists would often illustrate Philipon’s themes to create some of France’s earliest political cartoons.
He died in Paris at the age of 61.