Naissance de la Bande Dessinée

Births of the Comic Strip

From the 5th November to 28th April 2010, the exhibition ‘Births of the Comic’ sheds a new light on the origins of the ninth art and follows on directly from the superb graphic novel that Thierry Smolderen is releasing under ‘Les Impressions Nouvelles’ publications. The exhibition opens right at the end of the 18th century, with the painter and engraver William Hogarth and ends with the brilliant work of Winsor McCay. In a lively and evocative set-up, the exhibition presents original drawing boards, first editions of Töpffer, Cham, Gustave Doré, Wilhem Busch, A.B. Frost, Outcault and many others such as ancient newspapers and boxwood engravings. In addition, also on display is a magnificent lithographic stone used to demonstrate printing techniques, a collection of artifacts and ancient toys. In a film produced especially for the occasion, Thierry Smolderen reveals with strength and clarity the main issues on the subject he has been developing for twenty years. The atmosphere of the late 19th century and the imagination of Maison Autrique provide an ideal setting to discover the context that witnessed the first developments of the ninth art. The ‘Birth of the Comic’ exhibition and the accompanying book constitute an event not to be missed and should end the year of the comic with a flourish.


Thierry Smolderen

Scriptwriter, theorist and Professor at the European School of Visual Arts, Thierry Smolderen is one of today’s top experts in the history of the comic. He has published numerous articles in French magazines (such as 9e Art) as well as American publications (such as Comic Art). The new theoretical foundations on which his research is based on have allowed him to reveal fascinating documents, which until now were unknown. Among his graphic novel plots, one can point out the imagined biography of McCay (illustrated by J-P. Bramanti, Delcourt publications), and the Ghost Money series (illustrated by D. Bertail, Dargaud publications).

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The book
From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay

Around 1900, a new layout, full of humour and action appeared in the American press that was easily recognized as the graphic novel: the comic strip, born at the same time as cinema and pornography. In this book full of revelations, Thierry Smolderen shows that the origin of this layout is much older and linked to another origin: that of the modern novel, which emerged in England during the 18th century. The satirical works of the painter and engraver William Hogarth paved the way for this, leading to a new genre and relationship between the image and media of the modern age.

During the 19th century, the trend set by Hogarth became an exclusive matter for a particular group of illustrators; cartoonists, who used their great knowledge of images to produce parodies by developing the art of stylistic hybridization. Fascinated by graffiti, children’s illustrations and unconventional images, they were the first to take control of the emerging media which they simplified and combined to create an ironic perspective. Like Rodolphe Töpffer, they also enjoyed questioning the sequential sayings of the industrial world that stemmed from the naïve past of popular stories and images. The modern comic developed in a decisively polygraphic environment that included all the major revolutions leading to the audiovisual age.

This work – which also constitutes a genuine anthology – sheds light on the puzzle pieces that we thought we knew so well: far from coming from nowhere, the graphic novel appears to be the main heir of a readable image culture that is just as old as the printed illustration. The speech bubble, clear lines, progressive action, ironic mise en abyme and even the crazy physical appearance of the cartoons, give the comic a much wider lineage than the authors themselves could have supposed. Together, the comic’s associations with the avant-garde novel of the 18th century and the Romance novel, its long union with the illustrated press and its relationship with cinema have opened the door for the archetypal contemporary image.


Date : 2009-11-05
End date : 2010-04-25
Naissance de la Bande Dessinée

La Casa Autrique 


Chaussée de Haecht 266
1030 Schaerbeek

Orari d’apertura



Dal mercoledi’ alla domenica,
dalle 12 alle 18
(ultimo ingresso alle 17.30).


Adulti : €7,00
Gruppi, seniors (+65 anni), studenti : €5,00
Bambini, abitanti di Schaerbeek : €3,00
Articolo 27 : €1,25