Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Louis Raemaekers at His Drawing Board

Today is the day I administer the midterm test for the History of Political Cartoons students at the Institute of Art and Design at New England College. I spend most of my time thinking and writing about cartoonists of the past, and if there ever was an influential one, it was Louis Raemaekers. 

Here are three photos, taken in what looks like the same minute, in Louis Raemaekers' (1869-1956) studio at some point during The Great War. That's my guess, based on what's on his drawing board -- but it may have been a hotel room during one of his tours in Europe and America.

"He was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the 1914-18 War. There were a dozen or so people (emperors, kings, statesmen, and commanders-in-chief) who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle of the great, Louis Raemaekers stands conspicuous as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destinies of peoples." [New York Times 1956 obituary]

Forgotten today, the Dutch-born Raemaekers, having heard of the atrocities the invading German army inflicted on the citizens of Belgium, went against the tide of refugees, traveling in secret to visit Belgium to get the story first hand. 

He then went on a cartoon crusade, depicting what he heard. 

"Raemaekers' cartoons were instrumental in fighting against deeply entrenched American isolationism, and in 1917 the United States entered the war. Raemaekers quickly organized a lecture tour of the US and Canada, rallying the allies to support the French and mobilize against the Germans. The Christian Science Monitor said of Raemaekers, 'From the outset his works revealed something more than the humorous or ironical power of the caricaturist; they showed that behind the mere pictorial comment on the war was a man who thought and wrought with a deep and uncompromising conviction as to right and wrong.'"

John Adcoock has a terrific write up on the man at his Yesterday's Papers blog here.

Edited from an October 7, 2013 blog entry.

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