Saturday the 28th of June 2014: exactly 100 years after the assassination of Prince Franz-Ferdinand of Austria-Hongary and his wife, the European Cartoon Center opened an interesting cartoon exhibition on the First World War.
Head of the task force curating the exhibition, Fernand Vogels, introduced the exhibition:
‘That assassination was the starting point of a series of war declarations, in a Europe that was dominated by a climate of nationalism and imperialism.
On 28th of July, one month after the attack, Austria-Hongary declares the war on Serbia, the 1st of August Germany to Russia, the 3th to France and one day later the neutrality of Belgium was violated and so, we, the Belgians, were officially in war with Germany.
And it goes on and on: England declares the war to Germany, Austria-Hongary to Russia, France and England to Austria-Hongary, Japan to Germany. Russia, France and England to Turkey
And later: Italy, San Marino, bulgary, Albany, the USA, Cuba, Panama, Greece, China, Siam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, … And all the colonies of these countries …
In total 1.500.000.000 people, or 80% of the world population at that time, were in war!
So the European Cartoon Center had to use cartoons to contribute at the remembrance festivities of this First World War.
This exhibition certainly does not aim to trace the history of the war through cartoons. We leave it to more specialist historical museums.
Our aim is more to invite you to step into the war years. Put yourself in the skin of this soldier setting off for the front, or this starving citizen desperate to flee, the mother seeing how her 17-year old is volunteering to go to war and don’t know how she will be able to raise her children by her own,…
You are in war, and at the same time you don’t have any objective, neutral information. But there are images – cartoons and caricatures on postcards, in newspapers, on leaflets and posters, these images, that are shown in the exhibition, influences your view on the war. All information is censored, coloured and laughs of the enemy. How does it affect you?
Humour was a powerful propaganda weapon during this war, but it was also a strategy for survival, in which amusement and comradeship helped civilians and soldiers bear their situation. Caricatures and other derisive drawings certainly had a soothing power, in addition to their strategic aspect.
As we started to prepare the exhibition, one and a half year from now, we directly realized that it want be an easy thing to do. The difficulty was not to find the cartoons, but to make a selection.
We did choose to work around three themes:
• The life at the front
• The impact on the population
• Cartoons as a propaganda tool.
Some artists who were active in the First World War are placed in the spotlight: Bruce Bairnsfather, Olaf Gulbransson, Albert Hahn, Alberto Martini, Louis Raemaekers, Guiseppe Scalarini, George Van Raemdonck.
With a special thanks for the families Raemaekers, Bairnsfather, van Raemdonck en Scalarini for there cooperation. The Grandson of Scalarani especially came over from Italy to be here with us tonight.
Also thanks to the ‘Persmuseum Amsterdam’ and the colleagues of vzw IHA from Boechout for the collaboration.
Did we learn something from history? Unfortunately not. We make the same mistakes over and over again. Even today we are confronted with wars and conflicts around the world, sometimes far away, sometimes at our back door, … .
That’s why we asked some contemporary cartoonists to make some cartoons about the war. Do you see any difference between a gas attack 100 years ago and a gas attack in Syria anno 2013? The modern cartoons are integrated in the exhibition to confront us with the fact that nothing changed.
But as we keep believing in Peace a part of the exhibition is dedicated to ‘Peace Dove’, an exhibition curated by the Israeli Cartoon Museum. Cartoonists from over the world, took up their pencils and draw their hope for peace. Also a lot of Belgians did take part in this exhibition.
It was hard working to show you the exhibition as it is today. So I really like to thank some people:
our partner ‘Maison du Tourisme Ardennes Brabonçonnes. After the exhibition in Kruishoutem, the exhibition will go to Wavre and Rixansart. And then to Eupen (the German speaking part of Belgium that was German during WWI), where Edmund Stoffels, member of Patliament, and here today, will organize the show.
Thanks to Luc Paryn and Daniel Van Acker from the ‘Liberaal Archief’ , to the connaisseurs and passionated Caroon collectors: the French Jean-Marie Bertin and Paul Van Damme (author of Vriend over Vijand.
Thanks to editor Lannoo for the use of the panels with cartoons.
And of course a special thanks to the task force: Jan Oplinus, Kurt Vangheluwe, Edwin De Borggraeve, Filip Gevaert, Herman Somers en Saskia and all volunteers of the ECC who did an amazing job to get the exhibition finished right on time.
From the beginning we found it important to collaborate with the local historical circle of Kruishoutem ‘Hultheim’ because this war had also an impact on the citizens of Kruishoutem.’
The local aspect of the exhibition got introduced with a reading of the Belgian author Marc de Bel, who did write a book based on the war years from his grand mother, who lived in Kruishoutem and was 14 in 1914.
Then Edwin De Borggraeve explain in a fantastic way what happened during the war in Kruishoutem.
A must see exhibition (only 35 minutes from Ypres, 20 minutes from Ghent and near to the graveyard of Waregem) from the 28th of June till the 22th of September.
More information about the exhibition, some cartoons and the opening hours on www.ecc-kruishoutem.be