Grandjouan, radical activist

Grandjouan, radical activist

  • The flight of the Quinz'mill.

    GRANDJOUAN Jules (1875 - 1968)

  • Front unity.

    GRANDJOUAN Jules (1875 - 1968)

  • Victims of the same Ruhrie.

    GRANDJOUAN Jules (1875 - 1968)

© ADAGP, Library of Contemporary International Documentation / MHC

© ADAGP, Library of contemporary international documentation / MHC

Victims of the same Ruhrie.

© ADAGP, Library of contemporary international documentation / MHC

Publication date: February 2011

Historical context

From radical activism to communism

The Third Republic anchors democratic practices in France but is far from satisfying the most radical who call for a social republic. The politico-financial affairs which punctuated the end of the 19th century, such as the Panama scandal in 1893, favored the rejection of a system to which all political parties nevertheless lent their support by participating in elections, at a time which saw the poster triumph in town as a means of communication.

A fierce libertarian, the cartoonist Jules Grandjouan (1875-1968) put his talent at the service of the revolutionary anti-parliamentary committee during the legislative elections of 1910. The fight led by this committee, which published Social war of Gustave Hervé, revolutionary socialist and antimilitarist, also carries it on the front of trade union unity and class struggle, in a France which has known the great war strikes (1917, 1918) and 1919. They are rely on the French Section of the Communist International born in December 1920, to which Grandjouan adheres.

Every opportunity is seized to defend the cause of the internationalist worker against the imperialist bourgeois. Decided by Poincaré to obtain in kind part of the reparations demanded from defeated Germany, the occupation of the Ruhr by the French army in January 1923 thus triggered a violent campaign on the part of the Communists.

Image Analysis

Unparliamentary, unitary and internationalist

The composition of the "Flight of the Quinz'mill" poster skillfully mimics period images of popular attractions and particularly appeals to the public's recent taste for aeronautical feats. In the center of the image, a golden airship named "Palais-Bourbeux", in reference to the Palais-Bourbon where the deputies sit, symbolizes the National Assembly. The title of the poster plays on the double meaning of the word "flight". In the gondola of the airship, the outgoing MPs hang on to their jackpot: 41 francs a day, almost 15,000 francs a year. They are flown over, from the point of view of salary, by the President of the Republic Armand Fallières, smiling and ruddy, and the President of the Council Alexandre Millerand. On earth the mass of pretenders to the prebend which constitutes, according to Grandjouan, a place of deputy is pressed; In black coats, a sign of elegance but also of wealth, they stretch out strongly extended arms, a sign of their greed.

"Front Unit", formed after the First World War, promotes the new trade union organization resulting from the split of the C.G.T. By representing the Bastille, Grandjouan claims the revolutionary identity of the C.G.T.U. The story unfolds in three stages arranged vertically. From the top of the "capitalist Bastille", cigar sticking to the lips, profiteers taunt demonstrators from the rampart walk with signs indicating leftist parties and unions. Then, at the call of the C.G.T.U., all abandon their particular identity to unite their efforts as they bind the poles. As a final step, this beam turns into a ram which breaks down the door of the citadel. The collective effort of the characters now united in the action provokes the capitalist surrender, expressed by a white flag, which contrasts in its modesty and its uniqueness with the eleven flags - nine red and two black - of the first sequence.

The poster "Victims of the same Ruhrie" was published by the C.G.T.U. supported by Grandjouan. The horizontal composition converges in the center of the image the top of a pile of coal, the wealth of the Ruhr, and the point of the "V" that the mine shafts of this highly industrialized region cut out in the sky. In the foreground, three figures stare at each other: on the left, a German miner forced to work under the threat of a bayonet brandished at rifle end by the French soldier standing in the center. On the right, the French minor to whom his German comrade addresses can only be distinguished from him by his passivity. The more intense pencil drawing for the German miner, bent by the effort (he uses the knee), brings him closer to the coal black he is mining and through which it is exploited. The soldier, recognizable by his inimitable helmet, is on the contrary frozen in statue, his equipment is finely detailed. The minor on the right is held in a strange position of expectation or doubt, his silhouette appearing as cut out from the background.


Word games and mirror games

The steadfastness of Grandjouan’s commitment lies in the belief in the possibility of a social revolution that would bring down a regime devoted to the interests of the bourgeoisie. If he shows Alexandre Millerand in a lawyer dress, it is because the latter, after having participated in a “bourgeois” government in 1898, had compromised himself by pleading the cause of the liquidator Duez in the affair of the “billion of congregations ”.

During the 1910 elections, Grandjouan called not to vote, set up an anti-parliamentary revolutionary committee in which he held the highest positions, designed two posters (with the mention "seen by the candidate") and gave lectures.

In his posters, he willingly uses the pun that denounces and hits the mark: the ambivalence of the word "flight" makes it possible to hijack an aeronautical poster, the Palais-Bourbon becomes a muddy swamp, the occupation of the Ruhr falls under "Cunning".

This art of the line is found in his way of drawing, quite dry, which holds in the thickness of the pencil stroke more than in the play of colors: the workers at work are dense, the bourgeois are without consistency, all in appearances, Balloons swollen with profit, but parasitic slaves of money.

These mirrored compositions and this constant play on the representations of the two main "classes" sign the manner of Grandjouan. The very young Communist Party attracted a number of anarchist and anti-militarist militants to it, who however turned away rather quickly.

  • Germany
  • anti-parliamentarianism
  • bourgeoisie
  • caricature
  • red flag
  • occupation of the Ruhr
  • capture of the Bastille
  • unionism
  • Third Republic
  • Millerand (Alexandre)
  • Poincaré (Raymond)
  • Fallières (Armand)


Jean-Jacques BECKER and Serge BERSTEIN, Victories and frustrations, 1914-1929, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points”, 1990. Jean-Jacques BECKER and Gilles CANDAR (eds.), History of lefts in France, volume II, "XXth century, put to the test of history", Paris, La Découverte, 2004. Fabienne DUMONT, Marie-Hélène JOUZEAU and Joël MORIS (eds.), exhibition catalog Jules Grandjouan: Creator of the political poster in France, Chaumont, les Silos, House of the book and poster, September 14-November 17, 2001, Paris, museum of contemporary history, spring 2002, Nantes, museum of the Château des ducs de Bretagne, 2003, Paris, Somogy, 2001 .

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Grandjouan, radical activist"

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