The bourgeoisie — the well-to-do middle class between the proletariat and the aristocracy — was the dominant force in 19th-century France.
It was a broad social class, with a world of difference between the petit-bourgeois shopkeeper and the haut-bourgeois dandy, who was wealthy enough to devote his life to passion and pleasure.
Although printmakers were drawn largely from the ranks of the bourgeoisie, this did not prevent them from resisting the materialism, conformity and conservatism of their own social class in every possible way.
Superficiality and Predictability
Printmakers mocked the wealthy bourgeoisie for the superficiality and predictability of their lives.
Hermann-Paul’s series of prints La Vie de Madame Quelconque (The Life of Mrs. Anybody) caricatures the mundane behaviour of the average bourgeoise, for whom not even an illicit affair could overcome the emptiness and boredom.
Exploiters and oppressors
More socially engaged artists like the caricaturistes-illustrateurs, despised the bourgeoisie for its exploitation and oppression of the proletariat.
In their view, industrialists, bankers and other capitalists lived off the backs of the poverty-stricken workers.
They depicted these political ideas in graphic work for the mass market, such as illustrated sheet music and magazine illustrations.
Bonnie G. Smith, Ladies of the Leisure Class. The Bourgeoisie of Northern France in the Nineteenth Century, Princeton 1981
Monique Eleb, L’invention de l’habitation moderne. Paris 1880–1914: architectures de la vie privée volume 2, Paris 1995
Jerrold Seigel, Bohemian Paris. Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life 1830–1930, Baltimore 1999