Graphic Witness: visual arts & social commentary
Graphic Witness home page
Tusche, tone and stone: 19th C. news illustration

Thomas Theodor Heine (1867-1948)

Th. Th. Heine worked in a variety of styles, as a selection of his work from Simplicissimus will show. But no matter his style, his outrage at the social injustices he saw is evident. In a four panel work (below) that appeared during 1904-1905, the magazine's ninth year of publication, Heine uses what would now be considered politically incorrect stereotypes to describe the governing styles in various African colonies, as a reflection of the national culture of each colonial power.

The first international human rights movement of the 20th Century began in protest against the brutal regime in the Congo. The white bearded cannibal in the bottom right panel represents King Leopold II, whose monumental greed destroyed tens of millions of lives in the so-called Congo Free State.
For a detailed, readable account, deserving of all the praise it has received, read King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild [Houghton, Mifflin Co., New York, 1998].

In the German colonies, everything is orderly: signs with rules are posted; giraffes march in perfect, 'goose step' formation, and even the crocodiles are muzzled.

England, with the apparent blessing of the missionaries, transmutes rum into gold, with the application of pressure on the native population.

Fraternite and l'amour [left panel] are the stereotypic hallmarks of French rule, and the Belgian style of exploitation and 'government' [right panel], as Conrad suggests in Heart of Darkness, literally devours the population.
select image to enlarge
what the Germans do in their colonies what the English do in their colonies what the French do in their colonies what the Belgians do in their colonies

Other Simplicissimus artists | Graphic Witness home page

Last update: