Félix Fénéon

Alphonse Bertillon. _Fénéon. Félix_.  1894. Albumen silver print. 4 1/8 × 2 3/4 in. (10.5 × 7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alphonse Bertillon. Fénéon. Félix. 1894 324

Alphonse Bertillon. Fénéon. Félix. 1894. Albumen silver print. 4 1/8 × 2 3/4 in. (10.5 × 7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Curator, Starr Figura: This is a mugshot that was taken of Fénéon in 1894, when he was arrested in connection with an anarchist bombing.

Author, Mitchell Abidor: I'm Mitch Abidor. My specialty is French radical and revolutionary history.

Anarchy, literally, means “no government.” And he ended up working at, of all places, the Ministry of War. He really was a good employee, and he only lost his job when explosives were found in his desk. A bomb went off in the restaurant in the Hotel Foyot. And, Fénéon was a suspect in this bombing. Fénéon was arrested and they put 30 anarchists on trial in what came to be known as “The Trial of the 30.” And he was the star of the trial. Nothing intimidated him. When it was said that he was hiding behind a lamppost, he asked, “Which side of a lamppost is behind?” Because there is no such thing. So the trial ended up being an utter fiasco for the government. He'd be quite capable of planting a bomb. But this one? Not so certain.

There were many anarchists at the time who said there are no innocent victims. Some poor schmo drinking in a cafe in Paris was as guilty as somebody who was himself an exploiter, because they accepted an unjust system and did nothing to destroy it.

It's the third Republic, which was notoriously corrupt, which was notoriously repressive, where workers were killed when they went on strike. And so the destruction of anything and everybody involved in this system was probably, for him, what anarchy meant.

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