Louis Morel-Retz was a French 19th-century caricaturist, engraver and painter, who signed his work with the pseudonym Stop. He made some contributions to comic history, most notably the series 'Les Aventures de Monsieur Verdreau' (1850), which was plagiarized a few times in foreign magazines.

Early life and career
Louis Pierre Gabriel Bernard Morel-Retz was born in 1825 in Dijon, France. His father was vice-president of the city tribunal. The boy learned painting from Jean-Marie Heynemans, but at the insistence of his father he studied law at the University of Dijon, where he graduated in 1845. Morel-Retz rose from lawyer to master of law by 1849. In Paris he worked at the Court of Cassation and the Conseil d'État. Despite his rising status, Morel-Retz didn't neglect his artistic desires. He organized an exhibition of his aquarel paintings at the Salon des Beaux-Arts in Dijon and even in Paris he further honed his skills under the guidance of Swiss painter Charles Gleyre. Several of Morel-Retz's paintings were exhibited in the prestigious Salon de Paris.

Musical career
Morel-Retz was also active in the music world. He wrote the lyrics for operettes like Charles-Émile Poisot's 'Les Terreurs de M. Peters', Jules Uzès' 'Les Épreuves de Jacqueline', Paul Lacôme d'Estalenx' 'Une Histoire de Brigands'. He also wrote his own musical piece 'Le Sicilien où L'Amour Peintre' (1887), inspired by Molière's 'Ballet des Muses'. Two of his poems, 'Mélodies, Volume IV' and 'Mélodies, Volume V' would be set to music in respectively 1896 and 1900 by famous composer Jules Massenet (of 'Thais' fame). Morel-Retz furthermore designed costumes for theatre director J-B. Wecerlin of the Opéra Comique and illustrated opera booklets for Jacques Offenbach (famous for 'The Tales of Hoffmann' and the Can-Can from 'Orpheus'). 

Caricatures and comics
As a caricaturist Morel-Retz worked for Le Charivari, Le Journal Amusant, Le Journal Pour Rire and L'Illustration under the pseudonym Stop. Between 12 January and 8 February 1850 he created a comic strip for L'Illustration named 'Les Aventures de Monsieur Verdreau', which ran in five consecutive issues. Up to that point the magazine preferred gag cartoons and caricatures. Comics were still a novelty, yet readers enjoyed the bumbling adventures of Mr. Verdreau well enough to convince the editors of L'Illustration to create more room for comics in the magazine's pages. Interestingly enough, 'Mr. Verdreau' was plagiarized a couple of times. In August 1850 the Portuguese cartoonist Flora (probably Nogueira da Silva) recreated the same story under a different title: 'Aventuras Sentimentais e Dramáticas do Senhor Simplício Baptista', which appeared in the magazine Revista Popular. The same comic reappeared again on page 4 of issue #74 (29 May 1869) of another Portuguese magazine A Vida Fluminense, yet this time unsigned and under the slightly different title 'Os Amores do Sr. Barnabé'.

In an issue of Le Journal Pour Rire (21 October 1851), Morel-Retz drew some thematically connected cartoons ridiculing smokers. Some of these juxtaposed one-panel cartoons make use of narrative sequences. Around 1870 Morel-Retz made four thematically connected cartoons about the budget problem of the government, which appeared in Le Charivari. All four feature gags about a huge bag of money, depicted as some kind of monster. In a sense these could be interpreted as a prototypical text comic.

During his lifetime Morel-Retz published cartoon books like 'Musée de Famille' (August 1858), 'Bêtes et Gens' (1877) and 'Salon Humoristique Illustré' (1888). He wrote two volumes of fables, which he illustrated personally, such as 'Bêtes et Gens' (1877), and literary works/plays like 'Un Soupçon' (1886) and' Sept Petites Pièces de Vers' (1895).

Morel-Retz passed away in Dijon, in 1899 at the age of 74.

Morel-Retz, photographed by Nadar

'M. Verdreau' and its Portuguese versions at the HQ Retro blog

Series and books by Louis Morel-Retz in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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