Duelling Pens

     Pages for a new History of Political Cartooning in Denmark

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 67, June 19, 1852.
Two inmates in an madhouse in agreement that an opposing daily of Folkets Nisse
is the only sane outlet. The rest have lost their mind...

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 88
November 13, 1852.
An editor doing his troublesome work:
The king attacked by one of his own,
and one of his own attacked the king.
How to repeat the same message with a minor tweaking.
It is election week in Europe to the EU parliament and in Denmark it will be time to vote for the national parliament in two weeks time. The occasion is thus ripe to be looking at how to draw political opponents and especially where to find them.

The present examples were drawn but a few years into the Danish democracy with the constitution in place securing the right to draw freely. The energy was high, but the positions long firmly in place. The transition to democracy was a peaceful one here in that the main institutions remained in place securing a smooth change and so likewise, political positions remained the same as before.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 94
December 25, 1852.
An elastic literatus, who can be arranged
to take both viewpoints as wished for.

Some had been starch supporters of the monarchy and the society as it was and they would be all the fiercer in keeping their opponents at bay.

They in turn became the No. 1 target by the drawn satire and all the more so for having been drawn as such long before the constitution. Back then ridiculing the king was a short-termed strategy before censorship and courts would be thrown at them and so the drawn satire had turned on those speaking up in support of the status quo.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 28
July 15, 1865.
When a daily wastes its space on a story on a run-away monkey.
Folkets Nisse reprinted the full text, this time with illustrations
and the editor in the leading role as the monkey.
Among the applauding audience is seen the elastic literatus.
The thing about dailies just as the weekly satirical papers is that they may be bought by the one person, but end up being read by everyone surrounding that first buyer. Hans Christian Andersen would reflect on how a satirical weekly may be bought by a servant but it would be read by his employer and his family too - who would officially never stoop so low as to buy it.

A daily just as a weekly thus have their own readers while their opponents follow its every move. The situation is not unlike that of propaganda, which is as much directed to an opponent as it is to reassure one's own side.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 28, July 15, 1865.
The monkey refused to be caught, but could not resist
this temptation and was once again under control.
And so, what is printed on a page in no way stays there. An article may insist on enlightening a matter while inviting a reaction from those who are not even officially readers of the paper. Those non-readers would in turn have their own pens. They would immediately write an opinion piece shredding that first article while not having to wait long to see a reaction in turn.

The life of papers is not unfolded on the paper itself, but within life of the society at large, with a crisscrossing of sharp pens.

It is a duel.

The ridicule against political opponents of the press is political satire at its sharpest, in that it is aiming at undermining their political stance as much as their professional position. In this instance it is not about kicking up or down in society, but among themselves.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 7, February 18, 1865.
Left side of the drawing:
The director of the royal theatre, who fought anyone doubting the rights of the monarch.
Two editors, the monkey-for-a-day and the elastic literatus,
are enjoying the view of those whose necks are under threat -

It is not just allowed, but expected to be as sharp balancing on vulgar as possible. Any attributes that refer back to stupid opinions or doings, making certain that they cling to the person as a constant definition. Execution scenes are everywhere in the early satirical papers such as placing someone within a picture frame by way of the wooden gallows.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse, No. 7, February 18, 1865.
Right side of the drawing:
- and the threatened editors, none of which would always agree,
but finding themselves on the same side in this instance.
Mr. Sørensen, the archetypal Dane, is seen to the far right.
Before we feel sorry for the wretched, the reasoning is to pen who are trying to tear democracy apart, seeing - as stated above - how the quiet transition into said democracy left intact many layers of the old structures of power. Corruption was undressed, just as those who enjoyed being bought.

We have no gallows today, but we know this type of cartooning to this day in this country. The outreach among the papers and weeklies are weakened today, however, by the algorithms deciding for us what we see and hear. We are now much more tied to those we already agree with than when the dailies were bound on physical paper.

Peter Klæstrup is the cartoonist of the present examples. Never named in his weekly and it has been constantly stated since that of course he drew, but did not carve out the blocks used for printing. It is my insistence that he did indeed carve them out himself. The sharp edging creating shadow and light of the two madhouse inmates above is Klæstrup at his very best. My only actual proof was that his father had been a lithographer and consequently his son would have learnt from him from early childhood.

It turned out I was right. I found the evidence in an obituary on Klæstrup written by one of his old adversaries.

Hat off to the old opponent at his curtain fall.

Peter Klæstrup for Folkets Nisse
No. 94, December 25, 1852.
All the editors forced around the Christmas tree of Folkets Nisse. The ornaments are
made from those they endorsed during the year.
The Folkets Nisse (The vigilant pixy of the people) is at the top of the tree.
The motto of the paper was "The press is a guard against wrongdoing".

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