Adventures in the Kuyper archive: Column 4: Abraham Kuyper: beloved target of cartoons

This Kuyper year, our curator of the Protestant Heritage collections, Jasmijn Vervloet, would like to take you on an adventure in the Kuyper archive to gain a better understanding of Abraham Kuyper, the founder of VU Amsterdam. Column 4: Abraham Kuyper: beloved target of cartoons

01/20/2021 | 3:47 PM


Abraham Kuyper: beloved target of cartoons

Few Dutch historical figures have been the target of cartoons as often as Abraham Kuyper. In 1909, the booklet: ‘Dr. A Kuyper in Caricatures. With a preface by dr. Kuyper himself’ was published. It contains a selection of one hundred cartoons, which represent only part of his political career. It would have been easy to include far more.

Good humour
Although it is probably not always pleasant to see yourself lampooned in a cartoon, Kuyper never complained about it publicly. In the preface to the Caricatures booklet, he seemed to take them in good humour:

More than once have I enjoyed a cartoon of myself and learned from it. Of course, cartoons exaggerate, but it is precisely because of this exaggeration that you may discover something about your actions of which you would otherwise have remained unaware. And he who has an eye for it, uses it to his advantage, and learns from his mockers.

Pronounced opinions and distinctiveappearance
The increasing popularity of the political cartoon in the 19th century (thanks to the increased distribution of relatively cheap newspapers and weeklies) coincided with Kuyper's career. Because of his distinctive appearance and pronounced opinions, he soon became a favourite subject of well-known cartoonists such as Johan Braakensiek and socialist Albert Hahn.

Knowledge of context
but to really understand them, you have to know the context in which they are made. Why did Albert Hahn in 1905 make the cartoon 'After the Downfall' shown here?

In 1901, the ‘right-wing’ confessional parties had won the parliamentary elections by a landslide. In the new cabinet, Kuyper became Minister of the Interior and President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister). The Kuyper government ruled the country from 1901 to 1905 with education, especially the financial equivalence of public and denominational education, and social legislation as its main focal points. Unfortunately, nothing much came of the social legislation. In addition, the Kuyper government caused widespread anger with its anti-strike laws enacted in 1903, after wage strikes broke out among railway workers. These ‘Strangling Laws’ of 1903 led to a fierce anti-Kuyper campaign in 1905, which eventually caused ‘the downfall of Kuyper’.

Want to see more?
‘Dr. A Kuyper in Caricatures is available digitally through the University Library's catalogue.

For more cartoons, have a look at the collection of the Rijksmuseum.

Follow the adventures in the Kuyper archive.