Honoré Daumier, <i>Les moucherons politiques</i>, 1850; George Grosz, <i>Der Mädchenhändler</i>, 1918; Honoré Daumier, <i>Un interieur Parisien. Monsieur fait le ménage</i>, Madame sogne à le défaire, 1842; Karl Arnold, <i>Kulturschwätzer</i>, 1922; all © Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Visual Wit and Social Critique

Satire from Goya to Grosz. With an installation by Dan Perjovschi

As the proper limits of the freedom of expression have become a point of sometimes violent contention in parts of the world, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg revisits the tradition of satire. Presenting just over two hundred works from the museum’s collections, this exhibition highlights how artists from Francisco de Goya to George Grosz employed visual wit as a tool of social critique. Caricature has long been a trusted format that lets artists ridicule the powerful and point up social grievances. One of the most popular forms of social critique was the caricature, which rose to great popularity in the eighteenth century, especially in Great Britain and France. Printed graphic work, which made easy reproduction possible, was the preferred medium for satire. Goya’s graphic cycles often resort to the grotesque and fantastic as registers of expression. Etching, the technique in which Goya and William Hogarth worked, was subsequently superseded by lithography, which allowed for speedier execution. Magazines like La Caricature and Le Charivari in France, Punch in Great Britain, and the Fliegende Blätter and, later, Simplicissimus in Germany played a crucial role in the dissemination of caricatures.

More than once, caricatures got their creators in trouble: Daumier, for example, went to prison for six months for mocking King Louis-Philippe. Almost a century later, George Grosz was sentenced to pay hefty fines for “insulting the German army” and “assaulting public morality.” The Nazis not only suppressed any criticism of their rule, they also threatened artists with employment bans and persecution. Caustic humor often had bitterly serious consequences.

The exhibition unfolds a spectrum of themes to illuminate the full bandwidth of satire in graphic art—from political issues to gender roles and aspects of everyday life. Combining a partly chronological arrangement with foci on specific subject matters, it shows how certain themes have remained interesting to satirists over the centuries. The one exception is political satire, which must be placed in its historic context. Even today, satire is a precarious balancing act between mockery and slander, as several contemporary examples illustrate.

Dan Perjovschi (born 1961 in Sibiu, Romania) has created a site-specific installation for the exhibition extending from the foyer right through the building.

Curator: Beatrice von Bormann
Curatorial Assistant: Barbara Herzog

Tuesday - Sunday: 
10.00 am - 6.00 pm
10.00 am - 8.00 pm
Monday: closed