” Le Rire,” meaning “to laugh,” was the most successful of all the “Journal Humoristique,” published in France during the “Belle Epoque” (the last years of the 19th century). Published as an illustrated satirical weekly from October 1894 to well into the 1950’s, it was founded in Paris by Felix Juven in 1894. At the time corruption and incompetence ran rampant in the politics of the French government. There was anti-republican unrest directed on the infamous Dreyfus affair. It was also the Gay Nineties, a time of crowded cabarets and cafes flowing with the likes of Yvette Guibert and Polaire, to entertain the restless generation of the new found industrial age - a perfect time to poke fun at the political and social issues of the day. It was the superb full color drawings of the front and back covers and the centre spread, which made “Le Rire” outstanding.
Printed as a small newspaper, black and white text and advertising appears on the reverse of each color drawing. The great artists that flourished in Paris at the time were lined up to display their talents in “Le Rire” to an anxious public. Its most famous and important contributor was Toulouse-Lautrec ( we currently have 6 for sale!) who did ten remarkable coloured drawings plus seven in black and white during the first three years of publication (October 1894-October 1897). He introduced the public to many of the celebrities of the day as well as social situations from the bedroom to the brothel, creating some of the most beautiful and memorable drawings ever produced for the publication.
The most prolific of all artists for the various journals of Paris, including “Le Rire,” was the great master Steinlen. Between 1883 and 1900 he produced close to 2000 illustrations for 50 journals. “The humanity of the street, the working class, the uneducated, the exploited, were the pervasive subject of Steinlen’s art. His popular sympathies found an economical and popular means of communicating his social messages”. He contributed over a dozen striking works to “Le Rire.”