The Art of Protest: Albert Hahn was righteous anger manifest. A graphic character assassin that even the mighty Germany Kaiser feared.

Design for a poster announcing a June 2, 1913 demonstration for universal suffrage for men and women (1913)
Portrait of Albert Hahn, by Leo Gestel 1906

In his short life (1877-1918), the Dutch illustrator and social activist Albert Hahn annoyed the rich, the clergy, the government. He even managed to get under the skin of the mighty Germany Kaiser during WW1. The Dutch public however, absolutely adored him, buying newspapers just to see Hahn’s latest barbs. He railed in particular at the poverty he saw all around him and attacked anyone he saw as responsible for it; factory owners, the church, large landowners, rack renters, slum landlords, capitalists, politicians and corporations.

Born dirt poor, (“respectably poor,” he called it) in the northern city of Groningen, he contracted tuberculosis in the vertebrae as a child and was cursed with the affliction, on and off, for most of his life. Despite this, for most of his 41 years on the planet Hahn worked for what his values told him was the betterment of his fellow man. He produced over 4000 works in his stint here. Precious little survives. The majority available are posted here.

Caricature of Abraham Kuyper, after his trip to Brussels and the Heeckeren case (1887)
“Abraham the Great”.
Caricature of Kuyper, from a 1904 edition of the satirical magazine De Ware Jacob.

Hahn’s reserved his most potent venom and perhaps his most iconic work (for the Dutch at least) for one man in particular. Anti-Revolutionary Party founder and the then Dutch Prime Minister, Abraham Kuyper.

Today, Hahn’s imagery of the politician is the imagery now associated with him, how he’s remembered, how he’s forever percieved.

Hahn was a ruthlessly effective character assassin.

Hahn working on the portrait “Abraham the Great”, a caricature of Abraham Kuijper, leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party.
Hahn used who looked a lot like Kuyper, Mr. G. Murris of Javastraat 81, trader in potatoes, vegetables and fruit, to pose for him.

A committed card carrying member of the Social Democratic Workers Party, Hahn had complete faith in the international labour movement and that it would win out in the end, bringing peace, harmony and prosperity to everyone.

“Kuyper, Hahn’s Great Target” (1903)
Abraham Kuyper (1912)
Preliminary sketch for N.V. Tooneelvereeniging. Management. Herman Heijermans (1912)

N.V. Tooneelvereeniging. Management. Herman Heijermans (1912)
“In a Line”
Drawing for a print in the political and satirical magazine, The Nutcracker (Feb 17, 1917)
The Medium (June 1915)

Hahn’s work was, still is, (mis) labelled as “cartoons”. His portraits for example go way beyond charicature. If the aim of a portrait is to nail the very essence of a subject’s character, he was in fact a great portrait artist. Described by a contemporary as “always a friendly socialist”, he wasn’t always angry. When he wasn’t unleashing his immense graphic wrath on politicians and the like he made wonderful, considered, graphic yet soft portraits of his circle, the Amsterdam artistic set; actors and actresses, classical musicians, fellow artists and authors.

He was also a sought-after graphic artist and typographer. He could hand draw type and craft wonderful posters. He did this for brands, for social movements and for all kinds of exhibitions and events.

Read the newspaper “The People” (1910)
Portrait of Andries Spoor (undated)
Portrait of cellist Isaac Mossel (1870-1923) 1st cellistof the Concertgebouw Orchestra (1888-1904)
and head teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory (c.1900)
Portrait of cellist Isaac Mossel (1870-1923) 1st cellistof the Concertgebouw Orchestra (1888-1904)
and head teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory (c.1900)
Scarecrow (1912)
Portrait of the artist Jan Toorop 1887-1918
The free say to the patron, pointing to the modern organized union, “If it goes against him, you can count entirely on me”.
Cartoon about the power of unions (1900)
Portrait of a girl (1916)
Design for a political cartoon (date unknown)
Design for a political cartoon (date unknown)
Meeting for State Pension 13 September Amsterdam
Big meeting for State Pension 13 September Amsterdam
The Dissolution Decree (unknown date)
Exhibition poster for the Stedelijk Museum (1916)
“Vote Red”, poster for the SDAP (1918)
Damrak 213-247 (east side).
Cartoon of the demolition of the Beurs van Zocher and the new Beurs van Berlage shown with large cracks in the facade (1903)
Universal suffrage poster (1911)
Providentia insurance company (1900)
“The Leiden Plate”, a huge placard, carried at political rallies,
with references to the bakery law and the 10-hour working day (1912)
Portrait of the actress, Esther de Boer-van Rijk (1916)
Design for a political cartoon (date unknown)
“Drink Control – Dutch Committee for Local Choice
“The Pub is Closed” anti-alcoholism campaign (1913)
Portrait of the Dutch painter, Johan Coenraad Braakensiek (1911)
Design for a satire on the clergy (date unknown)
Portrait of H. Hommes, administrator of the Dutch Opera in the Paleis voor Volksvlijt (date unknown)
Portrait of J. de Haan, administrator of the Dutch Opera in the Paleis voor Volksvlijt (date unknown)
Portrait of the author, Herman Heijermans. His pseudonym was Samuel Falkland.
The capitalist.
Design for a political cartoon (1887)
The Sacrifice of the Public School by Liberalism (unknown date)
Design for a WW1 satire (1887)

World War 1 came as a huge disappointment to Hahn and, like the neutral Netherlands, he took no side in it, viewing the war as simply a direct consequence of greedy economic systems. War, the though is the true face of capitalism. He did however, fire his arrows more often at the German warlords that at the allies and his aim was true. 

Design for a satire on the Russian monarchy (date unknown)

Hahn’s was outspoken, driven and focussed, the truths his work cantained delivered with savage grace. His pen was a weapon. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II himself was reduced to protesting about Hahn’s work, the Dutch government intervened. Hahn’s work jeopardised the unsteady neutralism of the Netherlands.

Portrait of Hahn by David van Kreveld in April 1915, 3 years before his death

Hahn died, during a tuberculosis attack in August 1918. Just 41.

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