Friday, 25 March 2016

"Dr Karadzic I suppose?"

He b..... appealed

Then again, he would. The Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of indictments of genocide, extinction and crime against humanity at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia yesterday. He was convicted to 40 years of imprisonment.

To paraphrase from the Judgement Summary Karadzic was "at the apex of political, governmental, and military structures and able to use his power and influence" and was for one a "central figure in disseminating propaganda" of which his "rhetoric was used to engender fear and hatred of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats and had the effect of exacerbating ethnic divisions and tensions".

Karadzic was in short not the dirty hands. He encouraged, facilitated and authorized what took place as part of the "joint criminal enterprise".

Active verbs of criminal intent acted out. Riber Hansson drew the verdict within Karadzic's very person yesterday; the realization in vertical lines of being caught while he is all busy horizontal lines seeking escape. The conflicting lines never merging, exposing his inner emptiness from any reflection of personal responsibility.

Riber Hansson, Dr Karadzic I suppose? March 24, 2016.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Riber Hansson and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

13 years and a day

Does a cartoon have it in it to respond to an attack by IS / Daesh?

Such was certain responses to widely circulated cartoons on the social media following yesterday's bombs in Bruxelles. Surely more bombs are the answer here???

To which the answer is: Cartoons are very much an appropriate response. I am not saying the response, because contrary to the outlook of the bombing-lustful, there is no one answer to anything. On the contrary, cartoons pose a powerful spectrum of responses in that they call together and mourn, while they reflect and bring in the greater picture daring to take critical stances at a time, when the mood is delicate.

One of the most well-spoken voices the past 24 hours have been Khalid Wad Albaih and it so happens that this too was the week of the 13th anniversary of the war on Iraq, which nurtured the organization of IS.

There is a bodily experience to our language, absorbed and transformed through the ages into lettering.

Khalid Wad Albaih, March 21, 2016.

Before us is such a transformation taking place on 13 years of international history within the word Iraq. The prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib at once embody the lie, which initiated the war and the devastation it lead to with this very image as the symbol of the degradation of us all.

The slouching figure of Lynndie England lacks everything that makes for a well-proportioned pose, which makes her indifference to human life all the more striking. She is long out of prison by now. Her superiors in the political system have still not been held responsible.

The Khartoon shown is courtesy of Khalid Wad Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cartoon of the Year 2016

The Cartoon of the Year - a new honorary award of Danish Cartoonists: The Pentel Award / Pentel-prisen was announced today: 

Roald Als with "Pia as Madam Speaker"

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse 1865

Roald Als' cartoon is to be seen here and with Peter Klæstrup's announcer of 1865 let us without further ado go to the press release, English translation in italics below:

Som noget helt nyt har Danske Bladtegnere udvidet hædersprisen med en særlig pris for årets bladtegning. Prisen går til Roald Als for tegningen ’Pia som formand’ af Pia Kjærsgaard på Folketingets formandsstol.
”En lang tradition i dansk bladtegning er, at man bygger figurer op omkring politikere. Og det formsprog har Roald Als brugt meget. Han skaber sine egne metaforer. Det var ham, der tegnede Anders Fogh som en hulemand, Nyrup med den evige cykelhjelm og Pia Kjærsgaard som konen i muddergrøften. Årets tegning er en afslutning af det forløb, hvor hun nu står helt stueren på Folketingets talerstol, som i stedet er blevet sølet til,” forklarer Lars Refn om baggrunden for valget af Roald Als som prismodtager.

Bladtegner og bestyrelsesmedlem i Danske Bladtegnere, Adam O. er enig:
”Vi valgte tegningen, fordi den er afslutningen på en længere fortælling. Roald Als er virkelig god til at bygge en figur op. Han er mester i karikaturtegning og gør brug af det virkemiddel til ug og slange ved at skabe de her fortællinger ud over de kommenterende tegninger. De stærkeste satiretegninger er, når folk ser en mand med en kølle i hånden for sig, når de tænker på Anders Fogh Rasmussen – og det kan han. Han har tegnet Pia Kjærsgaard som konen i muddergrøften. Det er en kraftfuld fortælling, og her har han leveret en svirpende afslutning,” siger Adam O.

Markering af et vigtigt fag
Den nye pris for Årets Bladtegning er inspireret af Årets Pressefoto, hvor der også er flere kategorier.
”Dansk Journalistforbunds pressefotografer har formået at få deres pris til at vokse og blive en væsentlig spiller på medieområdet, og vi vil gerne løfte vores pris ved at tilføre denne kategori med en pris til en klassisk bladtegning, som på satireområdet har sat dagsordenen.”
Behovet for bladtegnernes hæderspris har aldrig været større, mener Lars Refn.
”Tiden har jo vist os, hvor enorm interessen er for vores arbejde. Det viser fx sagen med Steve Bells tegning af Lars Løkke som nazist. Det viser Anne Marie Steen Petersens tegning af Inger Støjberg med en flygtning, der bliver hængt på juletræet. Lige siden, vi blev sendt forrest i slagmarken i kampen for ytringsfriheden med Muhammedtegningerne, har man anset bladtegning for vigtig – så vigtig, at kunstnere som Lars Vilks har forsøgt at misbruge os. Derfor er det vigtigt at have en pris, hvor vi selv sætter dagsordenen,” siger Danske Bladtegneres formand Lars Refn.

Danish Cartoonists has extended the honorary award with a new, special award for Cartoon of the Year. The prize goes to Roald Als for drawing 'Pia as Madam Speaker' on Pia Kjærsgaard chairing the Danish Parliament.
"It has been a long tradition in Danish cartooning to create a character for a politician. It is an idiom Roald Als has put to great use creating his own metaphors. It was he, who drew Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a caveman, Nyrup with the eternal cycling helmet and Pia Kjærsgaard as the Fisherman's Wife in the hovel. This year's drawing is a completion of the last mentioned in which she now stands housebroken at the Parliamentary rostrum, which in turn has been soiled", explains Lars Refn on the reasons for choosing Roald Als.

Cartoonist and board member of Danish Cartoonists, Adam O. is in agreement:
"We chose the drawing because it is the completion of a narrative. of a long life Als is really good at creating a character. He is a master of caricature and makes use of the instrument to A+ by creating tales beyond the commenting cartoons. The strongest cartoons are when people see a man with a club in hand when they think of Anders Fogh Rasmussen - and this is what Roald master. He has drawn Pia Kjærsgaard as the Fishermans Wife in the hovel. It is a powerful story and here he delivered a culmination with a punch, "says Adam O.

Marking an important profession
The new award Cartoon of the Year is inspired by the Press Photo of the Year, in which there is likewise a number of categories.
"The press photographers in the Danish Union of Journalists have achieved to make their prize grow into a major player in the media field, and we want to boost our award by adding the category with an award for the classic cartoon, which has set the agenda in the field of satire".
The need for an honorary award in cartooning has never been greater, says Lars Refn.
"The time has indeed shown us how huge the interest is for our work. It is seen, for example, in the case of Steve Bell drawing Lars Løkke as a Nazi. It is seen in Anne Marie Steen Petersen drawing Inger Støjberg with a hanged refugee on the Christmas tree. From the time when we were sent into the battlefield as forerunners in the struggle for freedom of expression with the prophet cartoons, cartooning has been considered an important issue - so important that artists like Lars Vilks has tried to exploit us. It is important to have an award, where we set the agenda", says the chair of Danish cartoonists, Lars Refn.


A new generation of Gonzo journalism: Stine Spedsbjerg

Cartoonist of the Year and recipient of this year's honorary award of Danish Cartoonists: The Pentel Award / Pentel-prisen was announced today: Stine Spedsbjerg

From Stinestregen: Last year's serial as it turned out
when Stine drew her own depression, which immediately
resonated with her followers.
Stine Spedsbjerg (born 1980) is a young and gorgeous Woody Allen of cartooning, placing herself at the center of her drawings to reflect on what the world is made of and doing so with deceptively simple lines and yet her drawings are dense with tactile linework - dotting, jagging, ticklish and vibrating with sudden openings to another realm of warm furry magic.

Oh, and she is presently chairing the Danish Council of Comics /Dansk Tegneserieråd.

But without further ado let us go to today's press release, English translation in italics below:

"”Årets bladtegner åbner en ny fløj for vores fag og gør det med kæmpestor gennemslagskraft,” siger formand for Danske Bladtegnere Lars Refn om årets modtager af Danske Bladtegneres hæderspris, Pentel-prisen.
Offentliggørelsen af modtageren af bladtegnernes hæderspris foregik på Danske Bladtegneres generalforsamling onsdag 16. marts.
Prisen går til Stine Spedsbjerg, som står bag de digitale dagbogsblogs StineStregen og StrictlyStine, der begge kan betegnes som er en form for ’illustreret navlebeskuelse’.

”Stine Spedsbjerg er en dygtig journalistisk tegner, fordi hun fortæller historier. Hun rapporterer fra virkeligheden – og det er præcis det, der er vores fag,” siger Lars Refn og understreger:
”Et sigte med prisen er at tegne foreningens fremtid. Det er ikke kun en flidspræmie til en dygtig tegner, men også for at markere en retning i en brydningstid for vores fag. Vi har traditionelt været bladtegnere på trykte medier. Nu åbner nye medier sig også for os på de sociale og digitale platforme, og her har Stine Spedsbjerg kæmpestor gennemslagskraft med flere hundredetusinde følgere.”

Erik Petri, der er bladtegner og medlem af bestyrelsen i Danske Bladtegnere, beskriver årets prismodtager som en nyskabende gonzojournalist, fordi hun tegner sig selv ind og derved bliver en del af handlingen.
”Hun er ikke en traditionel tegner, der tegner det, hun ser. Hun tolker og tegner det, hun oplever. Stine Spedsbjerg har en helt speciel evne til at få fat i de små historier og give et billede af helheden med små snapshots. Den journalistiske tilgang hun har til historien, bringer noget nyt til feltet reportagetegning og bringer det til live igen,” siger Erik Petri og tilføjer endnu en kvalitet ved årets hædersprismodtager:
”Hun bruger de sociale medier til at gå i interaktion med sine læsere. I stedet for at sidde og gemme sig som tegner, så bruger hun sig selv aktivt som figur og lukker følgerne ind ved at uploade sine ting og lade dem kommentere og give feedback i processen, og hun svarer dem. Det er et nyt fokus,” forklarer Erik Petri, som håber, at Stine Spedsbjergs arbejdsmetode vil inspirere til nye måder at rapportere fra begivenheder."

"This year's cartoonist opens a new road to our profession and does so with a huge impact," the chairman of the Danish Cartoonists Lars Refn says about this year's recipient of the Danish cartoonists' honorary award, the Pentel Prize.
The announcement of the recipient of the cartoonists' honorary award took place at the Danish cartoonists' meeting on Wednesday, March 16.
The prize is awarded Stine Spedsbjerg, who is behind the digital diary blogs Stinestregen and StrictlyStine, both of which can be described as a form of "illustrated navel-gazing".

"Stine Spedsbjerg is an accomplished journalistic cartoonist, because she tells stories. She reports from reality - and that is exactly what is our profession is about, "Lars Refn says and he stresses further:
"One aim of the award is to draw the future of the association. It is not just a prize for diligence to a talented artist, but a prize to mark a direction in a time of change for our profession. Traditionally we have been cartoonists in the printed media. Now the new media open for us too on the social and digital platforms, and Stine Spedsbjerg is hugely successful here 'with hundreds of thousands of followers".

Erik Petri, who is a cartoonist and board member of Danish Cartoonists describes the award winner as an innovative gonzo-journalist in that she integrates herself in her drawings thereby becoming part of the action:

"She is not a traditional artist who draws what she sees. She interprets and draws what she is experiencing. Stine Spedsbjerg has a unique ability to grab the little stories and give a picture of the whole with small snapshots. The journalistic approach she has to the story, brings something new to the field of reportage cartooning and brings it back to life, "says Erik Petri and adds on another quality of this year honorary winner:

"She uses social media to interact with her readers. Rather than sit and hide herself as a cartoonist, she uses herself actively as a character and invites in the consequences by uploading her things and letting them comment and provide feedback into the process, and she answers them. It is a new focus", explains Erik Petri, who is hoping Stine Spedsbjerg's work will inspire to new ways of reporting from events."


The cartoons shown are courtesy of Stine Spedsbjerg and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The anniversary which ought not have been

Detail from Charlie Hebdo, October 12, 2011, No. 1008.
Written by Sylvie Coma, drawings by Catherine Meurisse.

Charlie Hebdo, October 12, 2011, No. 1008.
Written by Sylvie Coma, drawings by Catherine Meurisse.
If anyone should still be in doubt about the necessity of the Syrians to demand dignity five years ago today, the reaction from Assad then as now tells us the full story.

In fact, in reading the interview by Charlie Hebdo of Tarek Alghorani six months into the revolution (done anonymously since he was still in the country), I cannot but equate the Sednaya prison with that of the lack of right to define the terms of one's own life of the people outside of it too.

It abided to all aspects of their situation from deprivation (starving of food and all material needs) to being tortured at the merest hint of having a personal presence that caught the eye of the prison guards. The right to define any of this never belonged to the prisoners themselves. Certain well-calculated manouvers of the prison guards furthermore put the young prisoners in a situation in which they found themselves defending Islam and paved their way to join IS.

In 2008 it came to a prisoner revolt at the Sednaya prison to which the answer was abrupt and cruel, resulting in a massacre; denied by the authorities in spite of the pressure from the outside world.

A situation to be repeated a few years later when the revolt, its answer and the denial of it were mirrored on a national level.

Tarek himself found the cartoons accompanying the present interview utterly funny. The one heading the article could hardly be any more precise, playing with the idea of how a piece of propaganda would look declaring the modernity of the (over-crowded) prison with only 1/3 prisoner per cell. The lie and the truth behind it in the very same take is no small feat for a drawing.

A very special thank you goes to Tarek Alghorani, who send the file of the interview on the very day of the Charlie Hebdo-massacre.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Basics of Human Life

Mia Mottelson, March 11, 2016.
Directly from the cartoonist to the pages of The Fartian.

This is what happens when the British are in town. The young immediately take from their example, incorporating just about every detail of what was discussed at the master class presided by cartooning masters Steve Bell and Martin Rowson for their Danish colleagues. Fur cup? The explanation is in the pronunciation, it transforms into a four-letter word, when spoken out loud.

Steve Bell and Martin Rowson in Copenhagen.

To declare fuck you to the potentates of our day, political and otherwise, is our job, in the words of Martin Rowson: "It stops us from going mad at what they do".

As it happens, said potentates have the very same bodily functions as everybody else and for 300+ years the British cartoonists have been deflating those egos, exposing their most basic needs all over the pages, all the more forcibly so since they have so much to empty themselves of:
"Like us they shit. Those who think they are better than us are taken down. Besides shitting is fun".

James Gillray, A voluptuary under the horrors
of digestion
, 1792.
George IV while Prince of Wales - everything around him
consisting of circles, psychedelic in the attempt
to find digestive relief, swimming in indulgence.
Photo source: Wikipedia.
Note, how far we are from the question of negativity, we have covered before. Cartooning is an intellectual field, cutting to the bone of the matter, using the analytic needle to puncture, what needs puncturing. Pompous bladders not least. As Martin Rowson said, he used to call drawing voodoo, but really it does magic in taking something and filter it, taking control and stealing souls while doing so:

"We are not doing illustrations of thoughts. We think through drawing".

Drawing is not expressive, they both stressed. It is considerate, the idea is plotted in advance and then worked out while drawing, seeing whether the idea works.

It takes discipline not to dismiss one's first idea while drawing. So to keep the vibrancy of it, Steve Bell pencils in rough as an indicator, inking it up along the same lines. It takes four hours of working fast on an adrenaline high, Martin Rowson added in:

"I get angry and then I spend four hours doing water colours".

Steve Bell drawing
Angry at the doings of politicians and the major fear is to fall in love with those drawn. "I lost my reason for living" would be the case, if so.

Yet, of course there is love involved, just as the politicians are keen on their side to prove their sense of humor. No politician would dare sue; it would be the end of their career.

Businessmen do, on the other hand and overall there is a tendency to declare "offence" lately. Declaring oneself "offended" puts a stop to all argumentation. The rule of social engagement is broken and THAT is the actual offence, according to both cartoonists.

James Aitken, Public Credit or The State Idol, June 3, 1791.
Edmund Burke licking the behind of the Prime Minister,
climbing "The Sure Steps to Preferment",
while the licked one has taken to a size too large to fit the public offices.

Which brings us back to the feces and the exposure of backsides and with them the Bill of Rights in 1689, which established the freedom of speech to a degree no politician would dare touch it. "We always win" when prosecuted, as Rowson and Bell stated. The certainty, with which the statement is expressed, remains so far a dream prospect for the rest of the world.

Even in a place such as Scandinavia, where our freedom of speech is guaranteed. For one thing the British has a lead of about 150 years, whereas ours did not come about until the 19th century. The certainty of it is not looked upon with the same assuredness and Martin Rowson made an interesting point in the German Occupation in 1940-45: We have known instances here in which the freedom was abolished; it may happen again.

Mia Mottelson in the middle, flanked by Lars Refn to the left and
Josephine Kyhn on the other.
Josephine Kyhn, March 11, 2016.

And so it made all the more reason to take from the British inspiration while the chance was there and the dialogue between Mia Mottelson and Josephine Kyhn, ought to have been podcasted. For two hours they would give inputs to each other; professional reflections such as "oh, but do they dangle below?" or "that knob there" and "it should have more green to it".

Josephine Kyhn combined the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen our reputation as a country of pigs and a new (senseless and superfluous) system of labeling meat in which spam gets but one star. Such as in this case. "He is a funny looking little kid", as Steve Bell concluded on his on take on the same man.

Below is the reaction of the masters of the profession on first seeing Mia's drawing, shown above here. Humans have been around for 150,000 years and have been drawing for the past 40.000 years. In comparison we have had the written word for measly 5,500 years. We have in other words been drawing for 1/3 of human existence, Martin Rowson pointed out. 

Drawing is as basic to humans as what they do when drawn.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Mia Mottelson and Josephine Kyhn and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

"To ridicule you have been"

Pages for a new History of Political Cartooning in Denmark 

Knud Gamborg: The Funeral of The August Society, May 30, 1865.
The words below is a play on the Danish Evangelical-Lutheran
funeral sermon on the words gris (pig) and grin (ridicule):
From a pig you arose
To ridicule you have been
As brawn you shall rise again

There is nothing like officiating the funeral of one's political adversaries, making certain that no one misses how they have just unmasked their actual intentions and as such this is the essence of what cartoon art can and does.

Augustforeningen (i.e. The August Society) consisted of a circle of landowners, titled and otherwise and businessmen, objecting to the 1864-war lost to Germany. So was the weekly Pjerrot; they differed however deeply on the question of popular rule. Who gets to have a say, should it be each man his voice or a rule based on how one was settled in life? A revision of the constitution was underway and a matter of intense debate at this time, when the vote was still reserved the free being defined as the economically independent male.

When Augustforeningen chose not to make a special occasion of Constitution Day in 1865, they seemed to have exposed their motif of existence as that of power and not of democracy. The unmasking had been of their own doing and as a consequence they were given a full page in Pjerrot.

Infographic by Erik Petri of the mourners present, please click the photo for more details
(the text is in Danish, for which we apologize)

Augustforeningen counted the prime minister among its members, who is recognizable here as the pig with the Elephant Order. The pages of Pjerrot and Folkets Nisse were full of pigs, parrots, monkeys and donkeys of a humanoid nature referring to this set of gentlemen, making for a continuous fable, as we have known them since Antiquity. All of them animals of the basest kind, although the crayfish was a crayfish by name (Krebs). He was a constant source of joy for the satirical weeklies for the violence of his temper, invariably constantly speaking his mind.

We have known fables since Antiquity... and yet Atena Farghadani has been imprisoned since January 2015 for drawing just that, in her case an allegory on the Iranian parliament banning the access to birth control. The two drawings complement each other as part of a grand tradition of our civilization transforming our contemporaries into moral tales beyond our day and age, in this case directed at the companionship of power.

Photo from the Facebook-page Free Atena

Did Augustforeningen complain at any point?

There were a handful of cases of libel at the time, none by way of drawing as far as we can see. The democracy was still new and the remembrance of how the last autocratic kings had used the claim of libel to exercise censorship was fresh in mind.

Contrary to the Iranian authorities, who clearly admits to the truth of monkeys doing as they are told along with goats with the lack of patriarchal beards, their Danish colleagues of 1865 found hardly any interest in admitting themselves the likes of a pig. Besides, only a few years ago a Danish MP actually took someone to court, who had called the MP a fool. The case fell apart, when the judge leaned forward addressing the defense:

"Tell me, we judges have been talking over lunch, what in your opinion you would call an MP, who wishes for a ruling stating that he is not a fool?"

Erik Petri and I are deeply grateful for the collectors of cartoon art making it possible for us to research the sources of cartooning so intensely.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Peter Klæstrup

Pages for a new History of Political Cartooning in Denmark 

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren, No. 50, 1841:
"The Opposition Press and the People".
This is the very first cartoon of "Mr. People", (Hr. Folket)
later named "Mr. Sørensen" (Hr. Sørensen).

Peter Klæstrup (1820-1882) was the cartoonist of the satirical weeklies Corsaren, Folkets Nisse and Pjerrot, of which he first drew for Corsaren in 1841. Klæstrup was in other words the first cartoonist in Denmark.

Art history has a tendency to focus on the artists, who happened to do a few funny sketches on the side of stupid contemporaries. Artists of the common mold have careers more easily defined as a whole and it is so much easier to write about them. Klæstrup was consequently next to written out of history

He does not suit coffee-table art books. He is sharp, he is different and he has found two great admirers in us. Klæstrup graduated from the Royal Academy, but the very same year, being only 21 years old, he began working for the new critical weekly Corsaren.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 88,
November 13, 1852.
 The nose and the heavy eyelid is pure
inspiration from Daumier in Le Charivari.
Corsaren was inspired by Le Charivari in Paris and since the source of inspiration had drawings for maximum effect, so did Corsaren one year into the weekly's life.

Klæstrup had a knack for transforming critical ideas to the tiny format - most of his drawings were lithographed and then printed to just 3 cm. in height. Much of his detailing was lost in the lithographic adaptation and yet the printed outcome is sharp in wit as they are sharp in their black outline.

Their meaning is detected on the spot, they jump from the page, usually literally, such as the two ballet girls, whose zig zaggy-lines make them seem to be continuously leaping in front of us. Repeated razor lines on the lower legs create for a jagged rhythm to which is added their doll-like slackness: They are the antimony of ballet and its ideals of long lines and heads held high with arms and legs reaching beyond the human form. On its own a drawing mocking those very ideals, but it was placed on a spread of drawings on the 1864-war against Germany with the Danish troops abandoning all tactics and fleeing the battlefield.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 7, February 13, 1864.

The ballet girls were printed in Folkets Nisse, which was openly critical of both wars in the time of its existence, mocking all elements within the lack of necessity of it. Klæstrup put it all into imagery.

Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren, 1841.
- Dammit, I have no time for you today, mister,
you must come back another time.
He proved his journalistic flair at a time, when what he did was not his right to express. The Constitution legalizing his profession by way of the free word did not come about till he had been in the field for eight years.

Among his very first creations was the character of the quintessential Dane, Mr. People (Hr. Folket, later Hr. Sørensen), who reflected the impact of international and domestic politics. He was the one to insist the king, Christian VIII pay his debts to his people in 1841. Mr. People underwent a number of transformations. Here he is made all the leaner to make room for the vanity of autocracy.

The King was not mentioned by name, but his portrait unmistakable and the defamation all the greater. The actual features of the person portrayed was to be the line of Danish cartoon art.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 67, June 19, 1852.
"A minister of war after his death: In death our good and evil doings follow us to the gates of Heaven.
- Hansen, Hansen! Where are your good doings?"
The devils spell Cockade, Military Service, (the provinces) Schleswig-Holstein and War of Dogs.

Munch and Klæstrup. Photo by Louise.
We see Klæstrup today through eyes that are familiar with the woodblock experiments of Munch, Toulouse-Lautrec and Käthe Kollwitz.

They were not even born when the cartoons shown were made. Munch was born in 1863, Toulouse-Lautrec in 1864 and Kollwitz in 1867 and the art of Hokusai would not even be known in Europe for another 10 years.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Personification of the WHY

Pages for a new History of Political Cartooning in Denmark 

The text reads:
"The Silver Wedding Foundation of I.W. Heyman and Wife;
July 5, 1871"
Photo: Erik Petri, March 4, 2016.

Lately, the cartoonist Erik Petri and I have been seen running through town suddenly stopping and nodding "Oh, indeed" at the sight of buildings we have seen always only just know realizing ties to personalities spanning three centuries in small-town Copenhagen.

As it happens, Erik and I are rewriting the history of Danish cartoon art.

Introducing I.W. Heyman:
Peter Klæstrup for Pjerrot
May 21, 1865.
Søren Kierkegaard as drawn by
Peter Klæstrup for Corsaren,
No. 278, January 16, 1846.
It came about as a coincidence a few weeks ago. One discovery led to wondering how that fitted into the cartooning story line as we knew it - which it did not - and now we are going through threads of well-worn explanations, cutting them up and testing new ones.

First and foremost it is about time a truism was dissolved following Søren Kierkegaard as drawn by Peter Klæstrup in Corsaren 1846 on the uneven length of the philosopher's trousers. Kierkegaard was made a figure of public ridicule, leading to the religious phase of his writing and his withdrawing to a life in near isolation.

Once his diaries were published after his death in 1855, it was known how deeply the drawn mockery had affected him and - so the truism goes: Consequently the Danish cartoonists changed their course of interest from then on. We have no tradition of caricature, nor do the cartoonists attack those they draw on a personal level. Kierkegaard was the turning point.

Only the Kierkegaard cartoons changed nothing, as it turned out. The cartoonists kept doing what they had been doing all along.

Which is a sentence with many layers to it and let us open to the most obvious of them. A case of a Copenhagener ridiculed in the satirical weekly written by students: Pjerrot in 1865 until he chose to answer back in his own way.

Peter Klæstrup, Pjerrot, March 12, 1865.

His name was Isaac Wulff Heyman (1818-1884) business manager and stockbroker, philantropist to boot and with a number of honorary titles to his person. In 1865 he was awarded Ridderkorset (A Knight's Cross - albeit with no formal knighthood attached to it), which proved the occasion for Pjerrot to focus on him.

In the cartoon above Pjerrot is on the right taking on the role as "Fire Lieutenant" congratulating Heyman's father on his latest fire. Heyman père owned a substantial number of buildings in Copenhagen and as per usual at this time they were in the most appalling condition. One such school had just burned down due to the state of it. No children were harmed, but it brought the attention to the reason why it had burned down so easily. In fact he was receiving considerable amounts of money from the assurance on a regular basis from his houses burning to the ground. He was thus a happily insured man.

Peter Klæstrup, Pjerrot, July 2, 1865.

Peter Klæstrup, Pjerrot, 1865.
And yes, there is sadly an element of anti-Semitism to the exaggeration of the old Heyman's features. That, however, was not the case when soon after his son was introduced.

The cartoons of him are in unison with the photographs we know of him. I.W. Heyman seems to have been a tall, squarish man with a long, softly rounded nose that sort of turned flat in the middle of it. The cartoons of him are definitely his very own features.

Well-defined as he was, he was then put in a dilemma of a purely fictional character. In each cartoon the poor man is struggling to understand, why he was awarded the cross. Klæstrup has given a clever twist to Heyman's undressing. Heyman is not portrayed as standing accused. He is eroding from within. On the brink of madness, as the text reads he contemplates the cross, he contemplates himself and he ends up inspecting the back of the mirror, since there must be more to than what meets the eye.

Heyman took to the streets, where he met his father asking him to solve that big WHY for him. Only his father never quenched anything, curiosity for otherwise, as the text reads with its constant allusion to his joy of fire assurances.
Peter Klæstrup, Pjerrot, 1865.
Note the difference in how the two men are drawn. The one with his specific features
and his father drawn as a type: The frantic human caught in the realm of satire.

Pjerrot, August 8, 1865.
The cross was awarded in June and by the time we get to August 1865, Pjerrot entered into the stockbroker's own realm and issued a bill of exchange, promising to pay in harsh cash, i.e. cartoons.  The drawing of pierrot served as its stamp. By then the weekly constantly hinted at Heyman's next aspirations, such as being honored with the morning star as predicted by the popular medium at the time, The Somnambular.

The Somnambular speaking the truth in her sleep,
such as the contents of the letter in the prime minister's hand.
Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 38, September 23, 1865.

But just about then, in late summer 1865 it all stopped. Totally and completely and not a word nor drawing was made on Heyman again.

Erik and I have still not found evidence for the rumors hinted at by the next generation of cartoonists: That Heyman paid Pjerrot a good sum to put a full stop to its interest in him. 

The rumors of being paid instantly struck back at the weekly and Pjerrot was closed down the following year, 1866. NEITHER party had certainly any interest in making any transactions be known, although the mere rumor of it made Pjerrot an immediate and outright loser in all aspects of the life of the weekly. It had lost all right to live.

It is more than likely that a transaction of some sort took place seeing the abrupt stop of Heyman being mentioned. Heyman wisely knew, what a lengthy abuse of his name could mean to him, seeing the iconography of "A Heyman" was next on the cards. 

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 39, September 30, 1865.
The king throwing honors to everyone lining the road while traveling in Jutland.

There is much to be said for the fact that the weekly had already made the most of him, and yet its interest was not so much on his person as the fact that he was the receiving end of a royal distinction.

Heyman risked being the personification of the critique against royal priviledges at a time, when the king had just been imported from Germany. The country had waged a stupid war - according to the very same critics - against Germany the year before and when discussing the further steps on how to secure the democracy, royal honors smelled of privileges of old. 

"Medals are hung on idiots" P.A. Heiberg had declared; the last intellectual to be deported by a feudal king (in 1799), which is a sentence any Danish child shouts to this day. Hjerne (brain) and stjerne (star) rhyme in Danish, why his satire proved too good to be forgotten. Why not take down "that old horse" on the square in front of the royal palace, as another satirical weekly Folkets Nisse wrote in that Heyman year 1865 and erect a new monument of a "horse", with a cartoon of all the honors in use in Scandinavia at the time: 
Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 43, October 28, 1865.

All of the present cartoons address the consolidation of democracy, using a specific person to ask the WHO and WHY some get to define society. Just as Kierkegaard was exposed to a criticism, which could not be directed at the king before the constitution of 1849. Kierkegaard had after all written of his reluctance to see the masses gain power, making him the perfect object for ridiculing absolutism.

Peter Klæstrup was the cartoonist to draw most of them and certainly all of the present ones seen here. Erik and I shall return to Klæstrup in much greater detail; for now let us just note how the features of Heyman are never altered. It is as if his official portrait is engaging in a fight in the street and speaking of fights, let us close with a frantic Heyman of the summer 1865, so desperate that he attacks the lithographer Tegner (which incidentally means Cartoonist), who had already been awarded the honor, putting the word "scandalous" into Heyman's own mouth:

Peter Klæstrup, Pjerrot, 1865.

Erik Petri and I are deeply grateful for the collectors of cartoon art making it possible for us to research the sources of cartooning so intensely.

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