Color litho, Au feu! after Georges Busson


Color litho, Au feu! to Georges Busson. This lithograph appeared as an appendix to Le petit journal from April 1896. The image is 37 x 26.5 cm in size and is in a passe partout. There is a pencil note on the print but otherwise it is in remarkably good condition.

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Georges Louis Busson Charles was a French painter who was born in Paris on February 28, 1859 and died in July 1933 in Versailles. He learned to paint from his father Charles Busson and from Luminais the vice-president of the la Société des peintres de chevaux. Goerges Busson mainly paints horses, dogs, hunting scenes and races. As a member of the Society of French Artists, he exhibited in 1884 at the Salon of French Artists, where he earned the following year an honorary medal and a 3rd class medal in 1887.

Le Petit Journal was a conservative newspaper from Paris, founded by Moïse Polydore Millaud, and appeared from 1863 to 1944. Together with Le Petit Parisien, Le Matin and Le Journal, it was one of the four major French daily newspapers. In 1890, during the Boulangiste crisis, the circulation reached a million copies for the first time. Five years later, it had a circulation of two million copies, making it the world’s largest newspaper. The first issue of the magazine appeared on February 1, 1863 with a print of 83,000 copies. The founder, Millaud, originally came from Bordeaux and started as a publisher of financial and legal newsletters. For a few years he was the owner of La Presse, a first cheap daily newspaper. The first edition amounted to 83,000 copies; a large circulation compared to the other serious newspapers. Le Siècle, for example, usually had a circulation of 50,000 copies.

Within two years, the magazine printed 259,000 copies, making it the largest newspaper in Paris. In 1870 it had reached 340,000 copies; twice the figure for the other important daily newspapers together. Much of this progress was made possible by the rotary presses designed by Hippolyte Auguste Marinoni in 1866 and installed by the Journal in 1872.

Despite the apparent successes, the Millaud family found themselves in financial difficulties and in 1873 sold their interests in the company to a group led by Émile de Girardin. In 1882, Marinoni took control of the magazine, succeeding Girardin. In 1884 he introduced the Supplément illustré, a weekly Sunday supplement that was the first to contain color illustrations. This became so popular that in 1889 Marinoni developed a color rotary press that could print 20,000 sheets per hour. By 1895, one million copies of the supplement were produced each week and the magazine had a circulation of two million copies, 80% of which went to the provinces, making it France’s most important newspaper. Around 1900 the growth of the newspaper slowed considerably. Many of his readers had gone to Le Petit Parisien because that newspaper had not taken part in the Dreyfus affair, while Ernest Judet, the editor of the Journal, was determinedly Anti-Dreyfus. Shortly thereafter, Le Petit Parisien became the best-selling newspaper in France. By 1914 the circulation of the journal had fallen to 850,000. In 1919 it had fallen to 400,000.

In 1936 the journal became the official body of the French Social Party, with the motto “Travail, Famille, Patrie”, which was borrowed from the “Croix-de-Feu” league and which later became the motto of the Vichy regime. Despite the support of many prominent figures, including the press magnate Raymond Patenôtre, the decline continued and in 1937 the average circulation was only 150,000 copies. During World War II, the head office was moved to Clermont-Ferrand in 1940. It received a monthly grant from the government, and François de La Rocque became chairman of the board of directors, but the newspaper could not be saved and the latest newspaper was published in August 1944.

Part of the magazine’s appeal was the low price. Thanks to the printing methods, it could only be sold for 5 centimes, as opposed to 15 centimes for typical daily use. It came in a handy size of 43 × 30 cm. The reader did not need a subscription and in addition to the news, the magazine offered feature stories, series (including the popular detective stories of Émile Gaboriau), horoscopes and opinion pieces. It was officially (if not really) apolitical and could be sent without shipping costs. It was also distributed in the evening so that it could be issued to employees who left their stores and factories.

One of the journal’s major innovations, which made a significant contribution to its popularity, was the publication of detailed minutes of sensational processes, starting with the Troppmann affair in 1869. The exploitation of this affair suggested the Journal capable of almost doubling the readership. It was also one of the earliest cases in which the journalistic ethics of a publication were seriously questioned.

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