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Reflections and memories

A wandering in search of yellow figures.

Le Nain Jaune Posted on Wed, January 16, 2019 15:10:40

In the second blog on “Le Nain Jaune” I made a short mention of Henry Harland and the Yellow Books. Harland was the literary editor of the series , Max Beerbohm the artistic editor and with him I will start this text.

In October 1896 Beerbohm’s story “The Happy Hypocrite” was published in number eleven of the series of Yellow Books. Lord George has fallen in love with the young actress Jenny, a yellow dwarf named Cupid caused this by shooting an arrow in his breast. Lord George boldly proposes marriage to Jenny, but she says that she will only marry a man with the face of a saint and a saintly character. In order to make her change her mind George calls in the service of a mask-maker a Mr. Aeneas. Wearing the mask Lord George shows himself to Jenny. Beerbohm offers some motives to play down the cheating by attaching the love for art and beauty to the mask, the result of wearing it changes not only the looks but also the character. The two marry and live blissfully in a little cottage. One day a former lover of George shows up and pulls his mask down in a jealous rage and to his own astonishment the mask has done its work and his face has changed permanently ( 1)

Cupid, the Yellow Dwarf by Max Beerbohm and on the right ‘The Yellow Kid’ by Richard Felton Outcault.

The Yellow Kid ( 1896-1898) created by Richard F. Outcault was one of the first comic newspaper characters. At first the Kid was just one of a group of street kids from the New York slums. He wore a blue nightgown of one of his sisters for lack of other clothing. One day Charles Saalburg, who was in charge of the colour prints, got the bright idea of colourizing the gown yellow. This was still experimental at the time, since yellow ink didn’t dry properly. But the effect was; it increased the visibility of the boy with the buckteeth and protruding ears. For Outcault The Yellow Kid represented not an individual, but a type he had noticed during his wanderings through New York’s streets . The kids do mischief, joyfully engage in slapstick and speak a phonetic language. Which had a huge appeal to the largely new immigrant population of New York. Outcault developed the speech balloon as a container for this language and also wrote it on the Yellow Kid’s gown. Another first was The Yellow Kid’s tendency to reference recent news events. Political cartoonists had done this as early as the late 18th century, but in comics this was still a novelty.

Despite his popularity The Yellow Kid fell victim to politics in 1889. In the run up to the Spanish- American War newspapers like William Randolp Hearst’s ‘The New York Journal’ were responsible for creating an atmosphere aiming for war. An effect of the mood created against anything Spanish was also an antipathy against the colours of the Spanish Flag, yellow and red. In this atmosphere the yellow gown made the Kid vulnerable and contributed to Outcault’s losing interest in his creation ( 2)

´The Big Type War of the Yellow Kids´ caricature by Leon Barret published in Vim Magazine 1889. (3)

Joseph Pullitzer of ´The New York World´ and William Randolph Hearst of ´The New York Journal´ , (newspapers that featured the Yellow Kid cartoons ) build a block tower and bicker about who’s war it is. Their stories swayed US public opinion to believe that the Cuban people were being severely persecuted by the Spanish, and that the only way for them to gain their independence was through American intervention. Hearst and Pulitzer made their stories credible by self-assertion and providing false names, dates, and locations of skirmishes and atrocities committed by the Spanish. The papers also claimed that their facts could be substantiated by the government. More than 100 years of neo-conservative influencing of public opinion and government policy, what has changed over the years?

A curious monkey

Hans Reyersbach was born in Hamburg in 1898 and met Margarete Waldstein (born 1906) at a party for the 16th birthday of Margarethe’s sister. Hans was already living in Brasil when the two met again in 1935 after she had left Germany to escape from the nazis. They decided to get married and travel to Paris for a honeymoon that would last almost 4 years. While in Paris, Hans’s animal drawings came to the attention of a French publisher, who commissioned him to write a children’s book. The result was ‘Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys’. One of its characters, an adorably impish monkey named Fifi, was such a success that the couple considered writing a book focused entirely on it. With the advance of the German army the Reys , being Jews, decided to flee Paris in 1940. In a lot of texts about this episode I come upon sentences like ´Hans assembled two bicycles´ or a reference to ‘self-made bicycles´, so I also got curious. How did he turn two bicycles into one and how did it look? In the end I found this image from a film made about the couple’s adventures (5)

A tandem! Is it possible they considered resting in turn and keep going forward? Would the one resting have found stability against the other? Would they have continued cycling during the night? Riding the tandem, with only their winter coats and four picture books strapped to the racks, the couple travelled to the south of France. In Bayonne they were issued life-saving visas signed by the Brazilian Vice-Consul. They were able to cross the Spanish border, travelled by train to Lisbon and from there they went to Brazil and straight on to New York. Where in 1941 the first Curious George story was published. (4)

( 6) Curious George rides a bike. And The man with the Yellow hat

In the stories Curious George has a steady companion , the man controlling and educating him is called “The man with the Yellow Hat”. This man catches George in Africa ( “One day George saw a man, he had on a yellow large straw hat. The man saw George too. “What a nice little monkey”, he thought. “I would like to take him home with me”. He put his hat on the ground, and, of course, George was curious. He came down from the tree to look at the large yellow hat”.) and takes George with him to America wherethe little monkey, curious as he is, constantly gets into trouble . The first Curious George story is a big success from the start and a whole series of new stories follow. They keep being reprinted and adapted to new times, animation series, movies and television films are made. (The first television adaption was aired in 1980 and I’m inclined to think Mike Kelley may have seen it and based his Mr Banaman on the character of the Man with the Yellow Hat. I will go into that in a new text.) As an illustration of the ongoing popularity of Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat: two photographs of Halloween costumes ( 7)

Driving off on a bicycle.

The story of the Rey’s escape made me think of a book that had made a big impression on me when I read it in my adolescent years. The book’s title is ‘the Russkoffs’ and it is written by Francois Cavanna. In my recollection the main character decided, in the same June days of 1940, to take his bike and leave Paris, fleeing from the advancing German army. The idea to just get on to your bike, skip school and drive away ,towards the horizon, stays with me, even after 40 years since I read the book. I wanted to refresh my memory so I bought a second hand copy, started reading and found out that my memory and interpretation had created an alternative story.

François , just 16years old, is the son of Italian immigrants. He is fed up with school, and wants to get a job. His father is a bricklayer and like all immigrants of the first generation he wants his son to have a more comfortable life. François starts working in one of the post offices of Paris and is only engaged for a short time when the war starts . The director of the post office calls for an emergency meeting during which he informs the employees; “The Krauts are already in Meaux. You will go home straightaway to fetch your stuff, take only the most necessary. In three hours time there will be a bus which will take you south. These are orders of the government. Those who refuse will face huge penalties.” The director continues;” I’m unable to accompany you , I’ve received orders to stay and confront what’s coming.” “A hero, well almost, he shouldn’t have worn those slippers during working hours. But he’s got tender feet”, Cavanna remarks cynically. Of course the bus doesn’t show up. The director tells his employees; “those of you who have bicycles will have to use these. The rest of you best take the train, if you can still catch it, if not you should try going on foot. The regrouping will be in Bordeaux, at the central postoffice. Try to stay together as best you can”. And so François mounts his bicycle and he’s off, adding one more body to a chaotic exodus. Eventually he notices he’s been overtaken by the German army and returns home after a couple of weeks.

The real subject of ‘the Russkoffs’ starts right on the first page of the book, the chapter is called “Slave Market.” François has been drafted to work as a forced labourer in Germany. He is working on a metal press that makes parts for grenades. The book describes his experience of three years prison camp, hunger, survival and mass dying, the encounter with his love and soulmate the Ukranian Maria and the nearing collapse of Germany. And the slow return back to France, losing Maria along the way, during a short absence of François she is rounded up by the Russian army and he is unable to find her. The book is dedicated to ‘Maria Jossifovna Tatartsjenko, wherever she may be’. The last lines of the book read ; “Once, I don’t know how I will go there. To the Ukraine, to Charkov. I will find her. In the meantime I will study the Russian language. And I started working again, one has to live, dying is no option”. ( 8)

The formative war experience turned Cavanna into a person with a big distrust for power, someone who has learned to look behind the scenes, someone who defuses all rhetoric . After the war he starts drawing comics for the newspaper ‘Le Déporté du travail’, a paper founded by the Association of Forced Labourers. He continues drawing for satirical magazines like Zéro and La Presse Aux Oeufs D’Or ( The Press with the Golden Eggs). Here he gets to know Georges Bernier. Together with him he starts the satirical magazine Hara-Kiri in 1960 and its successor Charlie Hebdo in 1970.

Cover of the Russkoffs. And a special Père-Lachaise edition of Charlie Hebdo, 5/02/2014, devoted to François Cavanna 1923-2014.



2. R. F. OUTCAULT’S THE YELLOW KID A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. Introduction by Bill Blackbeard, Kitchen Sink Press.

3. Totally beside the point but very funny; on the original Vim Magazine I cannot find anything but for those who like well muscled appealing men in minuscule bathing trunks this is a very nice search term.



6. Original drawing for one of seven Curious George stories with a dedication by H. A. Rey to ‘Nancy,who was too old for this book when it was first published, but who is now the right age, with love, from her ancient friend’.

7. Nowadays the stories of Curious George are being read in a critical way. There are a host of blogs questioning educational aspects of the behaviour of the Man with the Yellow Hat, aspects of western colonialism, and capitalist appropriation to name a few.

8. De Russkoffs, Francois Cavanna, 1980 Uitgeverij Lotus Antwerpen, translated by myself, in absence of an English translation

The development of the Yellow Dwarf.

Le Nain Jaune Posted on Mon, January 07, 2019 13:46:53

As I pointed out in the first text about Le Nain Jaune it is plausible that the name of the magazine is derived from Madame D’Aulnoy’s fairy figure. In this text I will attempt to create order in the many variants of yellow dwarfs that have developed over time. First in connection with political and literary magazines, secondly the yellow dwarf as a fairy figure in books and as a theatre figure, and thirdly the use of his name as a pseudonym.

The original first magazine had a short lifespan and existed from 1814 until 1815, manged a short restart in Brussels under the name of ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ which publication ceased in 1816. In the same year Le Nain Tricolore, or Journal Politique, des Arts, des Sciences et de la Littérature was founded . It was a magazine with Bonapartist sympathies. It didn’t take long for the whole group of editors to be convicted and sent into exile to the abbey of Mont- Saint-Michel where they stayed for three years.

‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’

The story of this caricature is told in the preface to the edition of January 1816: “Le Nain Blanc didn’t survive its prospectus, Le Nain Verte is even lesser known than the Green Giant and Le Nain Rose could be named after the colour of its envelope and the dwarf poppy. They are still circulating without resistance, without readers almost . By presenting their existence to the public I do not aim to clarify their title or colour. As the only son and heir of Le Nain Jaune , grown up in its true French school, I must declare why I wear new colours, because in principle I’m the same”. The text of the preface goes on explaining the symbolism of the colours and ends with; “everything for the Fatherland and the Truth, is my motto and I remain loyal to that”. (1)

In 1818 an English version is published under the name; ‘The Yellow Dwarf, a Weekly Miscellany’, a newspaper edited by John Hunt, No 19, Catherine Street, Strand. (2) I find more information on Hunt in a publication called ‘The Law Advertiser’ under the header ‘Insolvent debtors’. Hunt is mentioned as bookseller and publisher of ‘the Examiner, London Weekly Newspaper’. He seems to have been active from a large number of London addresses and even to have lived in Rouen, France for a while. I’m wondering if he continued his publishing on the other side of the Channel.( 3)

The first issue of The Yellow Dwarf reports about a lawsuit against a fellow publisher, a Mr. Hone. He is accused of publishing ‘three squibs in the form of parodies of part of the service of The Church of England”. The piece makes reservations about the argumentation of the prosecutor and puts forward arguments to show that they are not in good order. There’s a further piece about a speech on the freedom of the press by Mr. Jollivet, deputee of the Assemblée Nationale in which he is quoted; “The liberty of the Press is less necessary in a Representative Government than in other.-” “The Press” he added, “is represented as the only instrument by which truth can be made known; but the passions of men are too impetuous, to permit the Press that Liberty which some demand. The real National Representation is in the King.”

On the 16th of May 1863 a new Nain Jaune appeared in France, this time in the form of a newspaper, edited by Aurélien Scholl, this Le Nain Jaune would continue until 1876. An illustration in the head of the paper of the second of August 1865 shows a dwarf armed with a crossbow, rising from a grave amidst a group of onlookers. ( 4) Despite continuing the use of satire, the focus of the newspaper was less on politics and more on literature when compared to the first Nain Jaune. The list of names of its contributors is imposing, amongst them Théodore de Banville, Henry Rochefort ( also known by the portret painted by Manet), Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. Jules-Antoine Castagnary, a close friend of Courbet, ( see blogtexts 1 en 2) was chief-editor of Le Nain Jaune for a while.

Recently I was able to buy a copy of “Album des Bêtes à l’usage des gens d’esprit,” published by Aurélien Scholl. The book consists of three sections with engravings based on drawings by Grandville and Kaulbach. As publishing house is mentioned; Paris, Aux Bureaux du Nain Jaune, 1864.

The painting monkey on the title page smokes a pipe decorated with the head of Napoleon!

The journey of the fairytale.

Because of its great popularity Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairytale was translated for an English audience in the 18th century. The translations were adapted to different audiences, the rooms of noble and upperclass ladies and to nurseries. A very extensive article about the many modulations and adaptations to the story is written by Évanghélia Stead. (5) Le Nain Jaune turns into The Yellow Dwarf and Toutebelle becomes princess All-Fair . Sometimes the dwarf wins but in other stories the outcome is a happy one, the princess gets her happy ending, imaginably to spare the delicate children’s soul.

Editions in the series Walter Crane’s toybooks and one of Crane’s woodcut illustrations

It didn’t take long for the story to inspire theatre writers. Their productions were called pantomimes. Of which ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin Cupid and the King of the Goldmines’ by Henry J. Byron is the best known. The first performance was in Covent Garden,London in 1869.

In this play the figure of the Yellow Dwarf is characterized as; “not the pink of politeness, but the in-carnation of villainy”.

A chorus from one of the songs:

Bad,bad,bad as he can be,
Here in me one you see;
Most atrocious
In what’s wrong, and never right
I delight, boys, I delight
The Yellow Dwarf as bad as you could wish for,
Yes, I’m a fellow of the deepest dye,
he very deepest dye,
Though I’m yellow

There are a lot of varying theatre-productions on the Yellow Dwarf theme, to name just a few; ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin and the son of the sunflower” by G.D.Pitt, and ‘Harlequin (and the) Yellow Dwarf or the enchanted Orangetree and the King of the Goldmines’, by T.L. Greenwood .

The Yellow Dwarf’s part in a pantomime written by James Robinson Planché was played by Frederick Robson . This painting from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shows him in his role as Gam-Bogie. A creative reference to Gamboge, a bright yellow color coming from a natural resin and the word Boogeyman. This image of badness may only be compared to that of Roark Jr, the Yellow bastard from Frank Miller’s Sin City. A sadist untouchable by wealth and connections. But now I’ve strayed far from chlidren’s fairytales.


In April 1894 the first Yellow Book was published , a series published by The Boldley Head. With Aubrey Beardsley as art editor and Henry Harland as literary editor, the new magazine would publish works unlikely to be accepted by mainstream publishers. Harland contributed a lot of short stories and was fond of using pseudonyms, for each of which he adjusted his writing style. He wrote three satirical essays under the pen name “The Yellow Dwarf ( 6)

Le Nain Jaune is the title of a book Pascal Jardin wrote in loving memory of his father Jean Jardin , the yellow dwarf being his nickname. A book filled with anecdotes about a happy childhood and a father as a practical joker. By publishing his book “Des Gens Tres Bien” a painful family tragedy becomes visible, as grandson Alexandre reveals the collaboration history of his grandfather. During the World War Two occupation of France Jean Jardin acted as Head of the President’s Office for Pierre Laval. Laval was notorious for his role leading the government of Vichy and his collaboration with the German authorities. In 1945 he was convicted for treason and executed by firing squad. In his book Alexandre Jardin explores the efforts of his family to portray his grandfather as a typical civil servant, loyal to his superiors, simply carrying out orders. And tries to come to terms with the past. (7)



2. (Nrs 1 -21 of ‘The Yellow Dwarf’ can be read through Google Books),no.19+Catherine+street+Strand&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiNpPLStbbfAhWB2aQKHTRPADgQ6AEIKzAA#v=onepage&q=the%20yellow%20dwarf%20%20j.hunt%2Cno.19%20Catherine%20street%20Strand&f=false


4. Unfortunately I can only find low-res images of this frontpage, if someone finds a picture with a higher resolution I would be much obliged.

5. Évanghélia Stead, ‘Les perversions du merveilleux dans la petite revue; ou, Comment le Nain Jaune se mua en Yellow Dwarf’, in ‘Anamorphoses decadents: lárt de la défiguration, 1880-1914, etudes offertes a Jean de Palacio’. Presse de L’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2002

6. On Henry Harlands activities and writers’ carreer in New York, Parijs and London see Barbara Schmidt’s article,


Le Nain Jaune

Le Nain Jaune Posted on Mon, December 17, 2018 13:32:15

One of the reasons I started this blog and the research for it was my fascination with the interaction between high and popular art. And how this can be studied by looking at the personal practices of individual artists. When artistically dealing with the workings of politics and personal engagement. The first time I encountered the yellow dwarf was while leafing through a Time-Life book , ‘The world of Delacroix’, written by Tom Prideaux. On page 35 of the Dutch translation a black and white reproduction is shown of a drawing of three monkeys, the accompanying caption reads; while still studying at the École de Beaux Arts (1816-1817) Delacroix began publishing caricatures in a Parisian newspaper Le Nain Jaune, unbiased social satire. In Delacroix’ etching ‘three literary midgets’ quarrel on the gravestone holding the remains of Le Nain Jaune, caused by a contemporary process threatening the closure of the newspaper. ( 1)

A coloured version of the image I found on the internet shows that the fur of the dwarfs or monkeys has different colours(2). I like to think that they represent the ‘tricolore’, red-white-blue. Although the blue has a viridian, dark green hue. (2) The donkey in the middle tries to protect white and yellow booklets against the attempts of the other monkeys to take them away. He is in a desperate situation because of the giant goose feather and the foolswand he clutches at the same time. The subtitle of the print reads; les trois Nains Littéraires, ou les bâtards du Nain Jaune, Se disputant ses Dépouilles. In a rough translation this is ‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’.

In the recent catalogue published on the occasion of the Delacroix exhibition in the Louvre ( 3) I find another image and here the monkey in the middle has a grayish blue fur. Which goes to show that it is advisable to check multiple sources. Ségolène Le Men names the three dwarfs as representatives of three competing smaller satyrical ‘journals’. From 1807 to 1820 Delacroix lived in the Rue du Coq Saint Honoré, also the address for the Martinet Libraire this etching could have been printed ‘on the premises’. ( 3)

Delacroix and his relation to caricature is a very complex matter. There has been written a lot about a group of prints signed EXXXXX .

One of Delacroix’ earliest friends and first biographer Achille Piron recalls that Delacroix supposedly cooperated on two caricatures for ‘Le Nain Jaune’ and in 1930 in an article for ‘la Gazette des Beaux Arts’ Jean Laran confirmed that the 6 letters represent his first name Eugene. (4) Nowadays doubt reigns. The British Museum, owner of a substantial group of Delacroix prints, mentions ‘formerly attributed to Delacroix’ behind producer name

In a next blogtext I will go into Delacroix and the more than 20 lithographs he made for Le Miroir.

Le Nain Jaune must have been a real collector’s item. Every five days a gathering of a 24 page issue in a book-sized format was published , accompanied by nine large, hand coloured fold out caricatures each month.

Le Nain Jaune became especially famous for inventing two new royalist “orders” as a means of riculing the supporters of the prerevolutionary regime. One of these orders was that of the girouette (weathervane). A statesman was pictured with a particular amount of weathervanes representing the numbers of times he changed his opinions and allegiance to regimes. As can be seen in this print of a sixheaded Talleyrand. The second invention is ‘The order of the Eteignoir’ ( “candlesnuffer)‘ , playing on the double meaning of the French word lumière to indicate both “light” and “enlightenment.” The candlesnuffer became a symbol of reactionary attempts to turn back the clock and stifle liberty.

Members of the Order of the Eteignoir wear candlesnuffers as hats, Le Nain Jaune , 15 februari 1815.

In Juli 1815 ‘Le Nain Jaune’ was suppressed by royal decree, the editors found refuge in Brussels ( at the time ruled by the Dutch) where they established ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ and succeeded to smuggle this exile version into France. International pressure on the Dutch government resulted in closure of the paper after half a year.

I suppose that the name of the paper was a reference to ‘Le Nain Jaune’, a fairytale written by Madame d’Aulnoy in 1698. In contrast with the ending of a lot of fairytales in this story the bad guy wins and not the charming, but greedy princess Toutebelle and her parents. A promise is a promise even little princesses cannot get away with breaking it. So the yellow dwarf in this sense is an avenger of broken promises.

The Yellow Dwarf in an Epinalprint and Le Nain Jaune the namesake of the paper.

(1) De Wereld van Delacroix, Tom Prideaux , Time-Life Bibliotheek der Kunsten, 1971. A lot can be argued against this text fragment. Le Nain Jaune was founded in December 1814 and was suppressed in July 1815. The date 1816-1817 as mentioned by Prideaux as the date that saw Delacroix earliest attempts at caricature is after the closure of the paper. Unbiased social satire is a strange sentence connected as it is with a satirical political magazine. And it might be an interesting discussion if the remains of a magazine rest in a gravestone or in a grave.


(3) Delacroix, Musée du Louvre, Éditions Hazan, 2018. ‘Delacroix et L’Estampe, by Ségolène Le Men, page 375.

(4) Jean Laran, ‘Péchés de Jeunesse d’Eugene Delacroix’, La Gazette des beaux Arts, janvier 1930.

(5) Censorship of Political Caricature in nineteenth century France, Robert Justin Goldstein, Kent State University Press 1989, page 101 and further