Tuesday 16 August 2011

Louis Raemaekers - The Power to Shock

It's easy in this age of mass communications and on the spot film crews to overlook just how important illustration was as a means of imparting news of unfolding events at the start of the previous century. In the case of the Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers, his depiction of German military aggression during the First World War was so powerful and so brutal that when the Dutch government was presented with a de facto cease and desist order from Germany, Raemaekers and his family eventually had to settle in London. Dutch neutrality being no guarantee of his safety.

When one compares Raemaekers work with that of the Second World War cartoonist David Low, some twenty years later, one is immediately struck by the sheer savagery of Raemaker's art. Low in comparison seems quite benign.

To get anywhere near a Second World War equivalent of the visceral rage of Raemaekers' work one would need to look at the drawings made by Soviet cartoonists. The equivalence being that in both cases the artists had first hand experience of the horrors of war.

For more information on Louis Raemaekers check out the excellent biography of this great artist on John Adcock's essential Yesterday's Papers blog and once you've soaked up all the information, journey on through the electronic mists of cyberspace to the wonderful ASIFA Animation Blog where more of these incredible drawings are displayed.


  1. Stunning images Peter and completely new on me, it's always a surprise and to your credit the breadth of stuff you cover on the blog much as I love the comic stuff.

  2. Many thanks James. Raemaekers is definitely an artist to check out - really prolific and a sense of immediacy and urgency with his work which is totally in keeping with the subject matter.

    It makes you want to get your pencils and paper out just looking at it.

  3. Interestingly some of those skeletons remind me of the sort of horrific cartoons that were dropped on soldiers during WW2 - warning them of 'Death waiting at the River Po', etc. This sort of gothic propaganda art has a curiously visceral quality that not only looks back to the medieval visions of Bosch and Bruegel, but also forward to the American horror comics of the 1950s.