Kupka and the Butter Plate: Money

Kupka and the Butter Plate: Money

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Title: Swings than all that

Author : KUPKA Frantisek (1871 - 1957)

Creation date : 1902 -

Date shown: January 11, 1902

Dimensions: Height 44.5 cm - Width 39.2 cm

Technique and other indications: Paris, Musée d'Orsay, in the Louvre museum. Special issue L'Argent of the newspaper L'Assiette au Beurre (n ° 41, January 11, 1902)

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Thierry Le Mage (C) ADAGP, Paris

Picture reference: 01-021928 / RF52488-recto

© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Thierry Le Mage (C) ADAGP, Paris

Publication date: March 2018

Historical context

The Butter Plate

After the law on the freedom of the press of July 29, 1881, the bans imposed on journalists, cartoonists or cartoonists became less frequent, even if the legislation on insult to good morals remained a means of censorship. They denounce, among other things, the participation of a more moderate left in parliamentary debate.

The Butter Plate, “satirical, humorous, weekly” review was launched on April 4, 1901. Its founder, the French publisher of Hungarian origin Samuel-Sigismond Scharwz defined it as “a colored illustrated newspaper that will speak in a very biting, very scathing form, problems of current social life ”.

In its pages, renowned illustrators fiercely denounce clericalism and religion, militarism and colonialism, political power, social misery, capitalism and the bourgeoisie, as Frantisek Kupka does with Swings than all that, which appears in the special issue Money (No. 41) of January 11, 1902.

Its fairly high price (between 25 and 50 centimes from 1901 to 1904) limits the number of its paying readers (between 25,000 and 40,000 in France) to a fairly affluent and cultivated segment of the population. Nevertheless, the artistic quality and originality of The Butter Plate give it a very large audience. They help to crystallize and permanently anchor critical opinions relating to the “disenchanted setback of the Belle-Époque” (Michel Ragon).

Image Analysis

Swings than all that

Iconographic innovator, The Butter Plate is characterized in particular by the virtual absence of text and full-page color illustrations (sometimes double-page) signed by numerous artists such as Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Adolphe Willette, Jacques Villon, (who participate in the first issue), Kees van Dongen, Félix Vallotton or, a little later, Juan Gris. (1871-1957)

Several issues of the journal are devoted to a single theme, then generally entrusted to a single designer, like Money (N ° 41) of January 11, 1902, entirely produced by Kupka (1871-1957). This painter of Czech origin living in Montmartre since 1896 - who would later appear as one of the pioneers of abstraction - was still a young Symbolist painter who made a living as an illustrator working regularly for humorous periodicals such as the laugh and cock-a-doodle Doo. He is the author of this Illustration of the special issue L'Argent of the newspaper L'Assiette au Beurre, sixth page of the fifteen that make up this “album”, which all have the same layout: a drawing and a subtitle.

Combining watercolor, gouache, pen and ink drawing, this composition for photoengraving entitled "Swings than all that »Portrays the character of the bourgeois profiteer dear to Kupka, Mr. Capital (inspired by representations of Mammon, biblical demon of greed)1. Wearing a top hat and endowed with a big belly filled with gold coins, present on most of the boards of this issue, this quasi-monster appears smiling and serene, standing on a seesaw, in central position, the feet distributed on either side of the log (a barrel?) on which the board rests. On one side of it, we see Marianne in blue-white-red waving a Phrygian cap. On the other hand, in a rather grotesque position, Napoleon and a ruler with a blond beard (with his crown, his ermine and, more surprisingly, contemporary trousers and dress shoes) somehow act as a counterweight. On the right of the picture, we can see a barely sketched crowd of simple pencil strokes who seem to cheer or demonstrate at the sight of this spectacle, raising their hands here, hats there.


A fool's game

With this Illustration of the special issue L'Argent of the newspaper L'Assiette au Beurre, Kupka broadens the anti-capitalist statement that dominates the entire issue on Money to considerations that are both historical and political philosophy. Even if a doubt remains on the exact identity of the figure of the king (the Tsar?), One can think that, unlike other illustrations showing the representatives of various European countries (to show that war, peace , geopolitical agreements and disagreements are in fact dictated by financial interests) it would be here rather - or also - the various types of regimes that France has known which would be represented by the three characters: the Monarchy, the Empire and the Republic.

Thus, we find theMr. Capital as a referee amused and satisfied with this Game (the swing) that would constitute the great political changes. All "that" (the demonstrative is pejorative) would be just one Game childish, uncertain, unstable (the pendulum movement can be reversed at any time, as the XIXe century when these regimes succeeded) and above all a Game vain, whose real power, financial, would pull the strings for its own profit.

A Game dupes also, in which, despite his enthusiasm and the sometimes "active" passion he shows for these issues, the people would only have the illusion of participating. The crowd is in fact only one element of the decor, (graphically) erased, a simple spectator entertained and thereby blinded to the real springs or issues of these historical movements.

The Republic is also not spared from the harsh and radical criticism of Kupka. Marianne is thus described as the daughter of a revolution (or of several revolutions: 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1870) ultimately bourgeois (s). She may well wave her Phrygian cap triumphantly, nothing changes fundamentally, the bourgeois capitalist continues to lead the Game.

1. This iconographic type probably refers to the Rothschild by Charles Léandre on the cover of the humorous review The laugh from 1898, but other iconographic sources are possible. Perhaps it should be clarified that this kind of representation is strictly for Kupka a social criticism, but in no way anti-Semitism. Kupka is far from it, as he has always said and as he has proven by his life and his actions.THEINHARDT (Markéta), "František Kupka, cartoonist", in LEAL (B.), THEINHARDT (M.) and BRULLE (P.), Kupka, pioneer of abstraction, cat. expo., Paris, Grand Palais, National Galleries, (21 March – 30 July 2018), Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais, 2018.
  • bourgeoisie
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • monarchy
  • Marianne
  • satirical press
  • anarchism
  • caricature
  • The Butter Plate
  • hurry


CHALUPA, Pavel, François Kupka at The Butter Plate, Prague, Chamarré, 2008.

DIXMIER, Elisabeth and Michel, L’Assiette au Beurre: illustrated satirical review, 1901-1912, Paris, François Maspero, 1974.

TENTH, Michel, When the pencil attacks: satirical images and public opinion in France, 1814-1918, Paris, Éditions Autrement, 2007.

DROZ, Jacques, (dir.), General history of socialism, t. 2, Paris, PUF, 1978-1979.

MAITRON, Jean, The anarchist movement in France, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Tel", 1992.

HOUTE, Arnaud-Dominique, The Triumph of the Republic, 1871-1914 Paris, Seuil, 2014.

VACHTOVA, Ludmila, Frantisek Kupka, Prague, Odeon, 1967.

WINOCK, Michel, The Belle Epoque, a golden age, Paris, Perrin, 2002.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Kupka and the Butter Plate: Silver"

Video: Creative Uses for Metal Shelving


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