Danish Cartoonists

This picture was published on 1 May 1940 in the weekly Marianne. Photo: Wikipedia.

On the eve of the invasion of the Low Countries and France, the French weekly Marianne published a picture of Churchill and Hitler playing poker. Though the picture was a photomontage of the Danish artist Jacob Kjeldgaard (1884-1964), it shows the importance of daring to take a stand when this could not be taken for granted.

In the Netherlands, for example, press and politicians were very reluctant, until 10 May 1940, to speak out against Nazism.

In the 1930s, Kjeldgaard, who called himself Marinus, was a resident in Paris. His photomontages look exactly like real photographs. Marinus owed John Heartfield (1891-1968) the invention of the photomontage. John Heartfield was born as Helmuth Herzfeld.

He was a German Dadaist and he strongly opposed Nazism. He used the photomontage as propaganda. He experimented with montages with the minimum of artistry, but maximum of technical precision.

He never made pictures himself, but instead he used other pictures. Whereas all the other Dadaists producing photomontages did it for the art, for Heartfield the message was always primary. Text and image interacted subtly and ingeniously.

The best example of the subtility of Kjeldgaard is the prononciation of Churchill’s French language. Though Churchill was proud of his knowledge of the French language (he admired the country and resided long periods in the South), he had a special accent indeed, “Vôlez-vous jouer avec moâ” .

The confidence of Churchill goes without saying, he is in a winning mood. The smile on his face, the number of fiches and the seriousness of Hitler are obvious.

Both Kjeldgaard and Heartfield should be honored as pioneers of the free European press. Danish cartoonists still resist violent ideologies,  when other Europeans do not speak out. (source:nordjyllandskunstmuseum.dk).