The Man with the Poison Pen

Cartoon historian Mark Bryant looks at the career of the Dutch cartoonist whose searing indictment of German atrocities in the First World War won him plaudits from governments on two continents.

Not all cartoons are funny. They can also be witty, satirical, grotesque, obscene and vicious without being comic. And in the case of political cartoons in wartime they are often deliberately designed to inflame public opinion against an enemy – a powerful weapon in the armoury of propaganda departments on both sides of a conflict. This was particularly true during the First World War and one of the most famous artists specializing in so-called ‘hate’ cartoons during this period was the Dutchman Louis Raemaekers (1869-1956). Raemaekers’ work was so provocative that Kaiser Wilhelm offered to pay 12,000 Dutch guilders to whoever captured him (dead or alive). He was even prosecuted by his own government for jeopardizing Holland’s neutrality and British prime minister Lloyd George was so impressed by his drawings that he sent him to the US to convince the Americans to enter the war.

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