Graduate Citings: Maxime Valsamas

Maxime Valsamas

3rd Year Doctoral Student
Art History and Archaeology

Bathing in the Heart of Paris: “L’enseignement mutuel” from Daumier’s Series Les Baigneurs
Muse (Kemper Art Museum website)

Volume 48, 61-76
Date Accepted: 2015

This article’s primary focus is “L’enseignement mutuel” (Mutual instruction), a humorous lithograph by nineteenth-century French caricaturist Honoré Daumier (1808-1879). “L’enseignement mutuel” is one of thirty prints that Daumier produced as part of a series in the late 1830s and early 1840s addressing bathers and public bathing houses mid-century. Bathing in Paris was a cultural phenomenon during this time period, and it allowed Daumier to ridicule the physiognomy of urban dwellers. Daumier repeatedly satirized the social mores of Parisians, especially the pretentiousness of the bourgeoisie. By emphasizing the “ugliness” of bourgeois swimmers, such as the main figure in “L’enseignement mutuel”, Daumier comments on the artificiality of the modern man and his distance from nature. Artistically, Daumier scorns the idealized body revered by the French Academy, while politically he criticizes the pompousness of his middle-class compatriots. This paper also offers valuable insight about the editing and publishing process of a print in an illustrated satirical journal in the nineteenth century. This discussion is sparked by the two handwritten captions on the lithograph currently housed at the Museum of art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri. A print featuring two handwritten captions is extremely rare, lending “L’enseignement mutuel” a special quality, and warrants its detailed analysis.

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