Louis Mittelberg was born in Poland and grew up in Warsaw, instilled with a love of France by his Jewish family. In 1938 he went to Paris to train as an architect at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1939, following the declaration of war and Poland’s defeat, he enlisted in the French army. After almost a year in captivity he joined the Free French Forces in London and began drawing for the Gaullist and British press. The revelation of his discovery of Honoré Daumier had a lasting influence on his work. On his return to Paris, he drew mainly for the newspapers Action (1945-1952) and L’Humanité (1952-1958). He then joined L’Express, where he worked under the pseudonym of Tim until 1990. His drawings also appeared in Le Monde, L’Événement du jeudi, Newsweek, The New Yorker and The New York Times, and he can be regarded as one of the greatest political cartoonists of his generation.
A public commission by the Culture ministry in 1985, this monumental portrayal of Captain Dreyfus had particular significance in Tim’s career. His initial proposal was that it should be installed in the courtyard of the École Militaire, on the very spot where Alfred Dreyfus was degraded in 1895. Jack Lang, then Culture minister, agreed to this, but the Defence minister, Charles Hernu, opposed it on the grounds that the courtyard was not open to the public. François Mitterrand also had reservations, considering “that servicemen must be given an example not remorse”. The proposal that it should be erected in Place Dauphine, opposite the Law Courts and the Final Court of Appeal that rehabilitated Dreyfus in 1906, was also rejected. On the initiative of Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, the monument was finally unveiled in Place Pierre-Lafue, on the corner of Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs and Boulevard Raspail, for the centenary of Dreyfus’ arrest. The mahJ’s version is an epoxy resin cast on permanent loan from the Centre national des arts plastiques.
The Bibliothèque nationale de France and the mahJ have several wax and plaster studies for this sculpture and more than 300 drawings donated by the artist’s family.
In 1993 Tim also sculpted the Monument to the Deportees to Buna Monowitz Auschwitz III in Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The mahJ organised a retrospective, the "Tim, être de son temps" exhibition, in 2003.
Welcoming visitors in the museum’s main courtyard, this sculpture has particular significance for the mahJ because the Dreyfus Affair marked a fundamental hiatus in the process of integration of French Jews, unparalleled in the world, initiated by their emancipation by the National Constituent Assembly in 1791. The Dreyfus Affair had repercussions throughout Europe and convinced the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), then a correspondent in Paris, of the necessity of creating a Jewish state, which he advocated in Der Judenstaat, published in Leipzig and Vienna the year after Dreyfus’ conviction.
Homage to Captain Dreyfus thus poignantly complements the mahJ’s major collection concerning the Dreyfus Affair, the museum having received the exceptional donation of an archive of 2,700 documents by the captain’s family in 1997.