Magazine article History Today

Broadsides against Boney: Mark Bryant Admires a Russian Artist Whose Lampoons of Napoleon Inspired Some Notable British Caricaturists

Magazine article History Today

Broadsides against Boney: Mark Bryant Admires a Russian Artist Whose Lampoons of Napoleon Inspired Some Notable British Caricaturists

Article excerpt

Napoleon's invasion of Russia in June 1812 led not only to the formation of the Sixth Coalition against France (Britain, Portugal, Spain and Russia, joined later by Prussia, Austria and Sweden) but also to the ending of the tsar's 200-year-old ban on personal caricature. Between 1812 and 1814 more than 200 satirical prints targeting the French emperor and his circle appeared in Moscow and St Petersburg, some of which were reprinted in London and influenced the work of George Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson and others. This period also saw the emergence of the first professional caricaturists in Russia, notably the short-lived Ivan Terebenev (1780-1815), who died five months before the Napoleonic Wars ended, aged just 34.

Traditional cartoon images in Russia were in the form of the lubok, a brightly coloured woodcut broadside often featuring animals and mythological themes to comment on human nature. Strict censorship introduced in 1720 prevented the publication of any lubki that were deemed immoral or attacked the Orthodox church, the imperial government or the personal honour of any individual. However, with the beginning of the Patriotic War against France in 1812, all this changed and the lubok tradition-fused with western drawing techniques--was employed with great success to lampoon Russia's enemies and Napoleon in particular.

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Ivan Ivanovich Terebenev was born in St Petersburg (then Russia's capital) on June 10th, 1780. After studying sculpture at the city's Imperial Academy of Fine Art under Andreyan Zakharov (1761-1811) and M.I. Kozlovsky (1753-1802), graduating in 1800 with gold and silver medals for his work, he taught at a school in Tver (between St Petersburg and Moscow), while also continuing to produce a number of public monuments, bas reliefs and statues.

When Napoleon's Grand Army invaded Russia in June 1812, Terebenev turned to caricature and drew 48 popular anti-French satirical prints over the following three years, published at first by Ivan Glazunov and distributed nationwide by itinerant printsellers. Some were also reproduced in journals (such as The Son of the Fatherland), on sets of fine china and in book form. Perhaps Terebenev's bestknown work is Azbuka 1812 goda (A Gift to Children Commemorating the Year 1812), otherwise known as Terebenev's ABCs (1814). This book is a personal anthology of his own anti-Napoleon cartoons, using rhyming couplets based on the pictures to teach children the Russian alphabet. It also includes some additional caricatures by two of his contemporaries, Ivan Ivanov (1779-1848) and Aleksei Venetsianov (1780-1847). …

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