Whether it was a hulking depiction of a Hun or terrified Belgian children, no one captured the horrors of the First World War in quite the same way that Dutch political cartoonist Louis Raemaekers did.
His images were credited with influencing the course of the war, which is marking its centennial from 2014 to 2018.
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A new exhibit of 24 prints of Raemaekers’ work went on display this week at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. Taken from the museum’s collection, the colored pencil drawings are located on the research level, one floor below the museum. Admission to the museum is not required.
Raemaekers’ work was published in the Netherlands but was reprinted around the world, including in U.S. newspapers and magazines.
“He was very influential in swaying public opinion,” said Jonathan Casey, archivist at the World War I museum. “He had the talent and the style to communicate a message very emotionally and directly.”
Raemaekers was a pacifist and anti-militarist who was deeply bothered by the war. One print in the exhibit depicts a robed, skeletal figure drinking from a goblet of blood and is titled “To your health, civilization.”
Another, titled “Dear mother our graveyards have now reached the sea,” depicts war-weary soldiers in the trenches.
Many of the cartoons make it clear that Raemaekers placed the primary blame for the war on Germany and, specifically, Kaiser Wilhelm II. One, called “Thrown to the swine,” references British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed by the Germans for aiding the enemy.
The Baltimore Sun declared of Raemaekers, “No orator in any tongue has so stirred the human soul to unspeakable pity and implacable wrath as has this Dutch artist in universal language, which his pencil knows how to speak.”