Artist talk: cartoons as an act of resistance | Cobra Museum

Artist talk: cartoons as an act of resistance

Saturday 25 February 2023

Date: Saturday 25 February 2023
14.30 – 17.30 hours
Price: free (excluding museum entrance).
Booking: order your tickets here (select your museum entrance/time slot and choose Artist Talk 2.30 p.m.)
Language of the talk: English

14.30 – 15.30 Walk-in & opportunity to view the exhibition independently
15:30 – 16:30 Panel talk with guests
16.30 – 17.30 followed by drinks in the café and the opportunity to talk afterwards

What is the impact of image satire and cartoons on society in 2023? On Saturday 25 February, cartoonists Sanaz Bagheri, Tjeerd Royaards and Jip van den Toorn, led by journalist and writer Peter Wierenga, will discuss the current state of visual satire. How do they see their role as cartoonists? What is it like to do satire in Iran or during the Nazi regime compared to an open society like ours, where do you aim your arrows? What makes a cartoon or drawing such an appropriate form for social criticism? What are the reactions to their work and how do they deal with it? What question would you ask them on this topic?

Helhesten: art journal as an act of resistance

This artist talk is organised in the context of the exhibition We Kiss the Earth, on show at the Cobra Museum until 14 May. This exhibition focuses on Danish modern art from the 1930s and 1940s, and pays close attention to the Danish art magazine Helhesten (1941-1944) and the artists’ movement of the same name. During the German occupation of Denmark, the magazine’s drawings and content formed an artistic and satirical expression of resistance to the Nazi regime. Every cover featured the helhesten horse (hell horse): a three-legged ghost horse from the Scandinavian sagas that rides to sick people at night and predicts their death.

Carl-Henning Pedersen, Helhestetegning (The Hell-Horse), 1941, Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum. Foto: Mingo Photo, c/o Pictoright 2023

Whereas this horse was normally portrayed in a terrifying way, the Helhesten artists transformed the animal into a gnarly and sweet beast. With this mode of satire, they opposed the German glorification of the Aryan race and Germanic culture. The magazine itself bluntly promoted the national and international art of the time, which in Denmark was closely associated with communism. This art was seen by the occupying forces as entartet; art that did not meet the requirements of the national socialist regime. Publishing the magazine Helhesten was thus from the outset a not harmless act of resistance: publishing literature that “poisons the spirit of the people” was officially punishable by death. In the end, Danish artists managed to survive World War II unscathed. 

Even today, satirical drawings and art are an important mode of resistance and commentary around the world. Sometimes it is a mild mockery of developments in society, sometimes it is an outspoken protest against an oppressive and dangerous regime. Following Helhesten, we will have a discussion with several cartoonists about the current state of pictorial satire. 

The talk starts at 15:30 but feel free to come an hour earlier to see the exhibition. The language of the artist talk is English.


Peter Wierenga
Moderator Peter Wierenga (1971) is a classicist and journalist. He works for de Volkskrant as editor of Opinie & Debat, the weekday opinion section. He also wrote the books Ik brul dus ik ben (interviews with international thinkers on populism), and Raak! A world tour of satire. In this last book, he examines the state of satire in different cultures, partly on the basis of interviews with cartoonists from different continents and language areas.

Jip van den Toorn
Jip van den Toorn (born 1993) is a Dutch illustrator. She is de Volkskrant’s youngest cartoonist and won the 2022 Inkspot prize for the best political drawing of the parliamentary year. Van den Toorn works for Het Parool, Vrij Nederland and De Standaard, among others. She is also a writer and editor of the satirical television programme Dit was het nieuws. Her book Crisis was published in November 2022.

Tjeerd Royaards
Tjeerd Royaards (born 1980) is a political cartoonist. In the Netherlands, his cartoons are published in Trouw and internationally, his work appears with some regularity in Le Monde, Courrier International and the Washington Post. In 2018, he won the Inktspot Prize. He also editor-in-chief of Cartoon Movement, a leading international platform for political cartoons.

Sanaz Bagheri
Sanaz Bagheri is an Iranian cartoonist, resident in the Netherlands since four years. She is an independent cartoonist and is socially and politically engaged. She decided to focus on making protest cartoons because of the conditions in her home country and the struggle against the dictatorship in Iran. She is concerned about the lack of justice and speaks out in her work against the violation of human rights, women’s rights and freedom of expression. A drawing by Bageri was featured in the special Iran edition of the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo.