The Economics of Illustration: The Revue illustrée in the 1890s

  • Evanghelia Stead University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin


The Parisian Revue Illustrée (1885–1912), a middle-class periodical of broad circulation and sophisticated iconography, lets us examine the expansion of fin-de-siècle culture beyond the so-called ‘petites revues’, particularly in the years 1894–1903. Through this fashionable all-publics fortnightly, typically fin-de-siècle tales and songs on transient motives, replete with Art Nouveau images and ornamentation, reach bourgeois households. The article shows the niche category the magazine occupied through its copious and exciting iconography. Using unpublished correspondence and print material culture, it throws light on the ways its editors turned the more refined parts of the magazine into deluxe photo-mechanically produced books. The study focuses on two men, René Baschet, the Revue’s editor from 1889 to 1904, and Jérôme Doucet, his assistant editor from July 1897 to 1902, and two fin-de-siècle writers, Catulle Mendès and Jean Lorrain, as well as up-coming artists André Cahard, Henry Bellery-Desfontaines, Manuel Orazi, and Carloz Schwabe. The case shows that sophisticated illustration was a financial spur that came cheap while it supported the so-called ‘decadent’ writings. Further, with refined taste, numerous connexions to artists, and work for a Dutch publisher, Jérôme Doucet emerges as a key figure behind the scenes.

Author Biography

Evanghelia Stead, University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin

Evanghelia Stead, currently member of the Institut Universitaire de France and Comparative Literature Professor at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin (UVSQ), runs the TIGRE seminar at the École Normale Supérieure on print and visual culture. Researching books, periodicals, circulation, reception, and myth in Europe, she is currently exploring the ‘Thousand and Second Night’ literary tradition (in relation with the Arabian Nights) and Goethe’s Faust I print culture. Among her publications are La Chair du livre: matérialité, imaginaire et poétique du livre fin-de-siècle (2012), and two volumes on periodicals co-edited with Hélène Védrine, L’Europe des revues (1880–1920): Estampes, photographies, illustrations (2008), and L’Europe des revues II (1860-1930): réseaux et circulation des modèles (forthcoming 2017).