Jan Sluijters – Political war prints from the Nieuwe Amsterdammer 1915-1919

From 21 September onward, Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle presents the series of 77 political war prints that Jan Sluijters produced for the Nieuwe Amsterdammer magazine between 1915 and 1919. With this series, Sluijters, who was primarily known as a modernist and society painter, shows himself to be a genuine social agitator. The lithographs give a razor-sharp analysis of the First World War and the position of the Netherlands as a neutral country in the conflict. The works have come from the collection of artist Rob Scholte, who gathered together the entire series. This series was recently acquired by Museum de Fundatie with the support of the BankGiro Lottery.

The Netherlands’ compulsory neutrality
Whereas France, Russia and later the United Kingdom joined forces to oppose Germany and Austria after the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand (in Sarajevio 28 June 1914), the Netherlands wished to maintain its neutrality in what would become the First World War. Immediately after war broke out, the Netherlands government made an appeal to the editors of daily and weekly papers and magazines to be reticent in their reporting of the situation, in order not to endanger the neutrality of the country. Anyone who did not adhere to this advice ran the risk of prosecution under Articles 98 and 100 of the Criminal Code, which cover state secrets and endangering Dutch neutrality. The Dutch government thus stimulated self-censure. The press did its best to present reports on the war that were as neutral as possible, although there were preferences of course. For example, the Telegraaf was definitely pro-British, probably due to the relationship that existed between the financial markets of London and Amsterdam, whereas the Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant was pro-German as a result of the bond between the port of Rotterdam and the German hinterland.

Sluijters and the Nieuwe Amsterdammer
De Nieuwe Amsterdammer abhorred emotional subjective reporting and followed a somewhat pedantic style of journalism. But it did have echoes of anti-German sentiment. This magazine accentuated its articles sharply with supplementary war prints by Willy Sluiter, Piet van der Hem and Jan Sluijters, who furnished national politics and those of warring countries with ruthless analyses and satirical commentary. With the series of 77 prints later accumulated by Scholte, Sluijters places himself in the political-activist tradition. He became the chronicler of the First World War and this hitherto unknown section of his work makes him the political artist par excellence of this period. The work from the series displays many correspondences with the anti-fascist photo-montages created by the German artist John Heartfield in de twenties and thirties, which were the subject of a successful exhibition in Museum de Fundatie in 2009.

Sluijters’ Great War
Pollitical war prints from the Nieuwe Amsterdammer 1915-1919
21 September 2014 until 4 January 2015

Blijmarkt 20
8011 NE Zwolle,
The Netherlands

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