'Klacht Over De Rampspoed in de Republiek Tussen 1672 en 1675' (1675).

Romeyn de Hooghe was a mid-17th century, early 18th-century Dutch painter, sculptor, caricaturist and graphic artist. He was also active as a goldsmith, lawyer, writer and inventor. As a cartoonist De Hooghe was notorious for his many anti-French propaganda caricatures and erotic drawings, which led to a conviction for blasphemy and indecency. His political cartoons are nowadays considered important contributions to comic history, since they feature illustrated narrative sequences told in panels, with text underneath the images. Together with Frans Hogenberg's picture stories about 'The Spanish Fury' (1576) and the 'Murder of Henry III' (1589), Antonio Tempesta's 'Life of St. Laurentius' (1599) and 'Batavorum cum Romanis Bellum' (1612), Otto van Veen's 'De Bataafse Opstand' (1600-1613), Jacques Callot's 'Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre' ('Miseries of War', 1633), Francis Barlow's 'The Horrid Hellish Popish Plot' (1682) and William Hogarth's sequential paintings and engravings crafted between the 1720s and 1750s, they rank among the earliest sequential illustrated narratives with a signature. Together with Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Frans Hogenberg and Otto van Veen he can be considered one of the earliest prototypical Dutch comic artists.

Early life
Romeyn de Hooghe was born in 1645 in Amsterdam as the child of Flemish parents. His father was a knots craftsman from Ghent, married to a carpenter's daughter. De Hooghe studied classic languages, but there wasn't enough money to continue his studies. So in 1675 he instead founded his own art studio at the Reguliersgracht, later relocated to the Kalverstraat and from 1674 to De Dam in the building De Wakkere Hond. About 36 assistants helped him creating posters, portraits, pamphlets, greeting and playing cards. He took various commissions to illustrate books by famous contemporaries such as Constantijn Huygens and Hugo de Groot. He livened up the pages of Nicolaes Petter's 1674 wrestling guide, Coenraad van Klenck's 1677 travel diary to Moscow and made several engravings of buildings in Amsterdam.

'Het Verdrag van Breda' (1667).

"Cartooning" career
In 1667 De Hooghe became a political cartoonist. He and his assistants made highly elaborate illustrations of then recent news events. They typically feature one large image in the center, with various miniature images around them. Sometimes the miniature images are merely close-ups or different viewpoints of a certain location. Yet many other times De Hooghe actually visualizes the entire event in a series of chronological drawings. Underneath each image we read a written description. Today they can be considered prototypical comic strips. However, at the time these cartoons were the modern-day equivalent of a photo report in a newspaper. People carefully scrutinized every drawing to see the details of an event they had heard about, but could only imagine. De Hooghe's cartoons were very popular and were widely distributed across the country. Yet they weren't neutral observations. De Hooghe was a fierce royalist, who supported Dutch prince Willem III of Orange. As such all his cartoons glorify the Dutch nation and demonize the English and French troops with whom the Netherlands were at war at the time. The earliest prototypical comic strip-like cartoon by De Hooghe was 'Het Verdrag van Breda' (1667), which reflects on the Peace of Breda which ended the Second Dutch-English War (1665-1667).

'Witten Wonder Spiegel' (1672).

However, the peace was short-lived. In 1672 the Third Dutch-English War (1672-1674) broke loose and many of the early battles ended in Dutch defeat. The English marine was supported by France and the German principalities Münster and Bavaria. Their combined forces made it difficult for the Dutch marine to fight back, particularly since they had barely recovered since the previous war. In the Netherlands spirits were at such a low that people blamed their grand pensionary of Holland Johan de Witt, and his brother Cornelius. They were dragged out of their homes and lynched on the spot. As a result of these events 1672 went into history as the "Rampjaar" ("Disaster Year"). De Hooghe made a special engraving, 'Witten Wonder Spiegel' (1672), which paid homage to the Brothers De Witt. They are portrayed in the center of the image, while an illustrated narrative with written explanations underneath tells their life story and achievements, right up until their brutal death.

'Tirannien Tegen De Gereformeerden in Vrankrijk' (1685).

Thanks to admiral Michiel de Ruyter the Dutch marine managed to achieve some significant victories. Prince Willem III of Orange signed a treaty with Spain for extra help, while France eventually abandoned its treaty with England. In 1674 the Treaty of Westminster was signed, ending the war. De Hooghe nevertheless wasn't optimistic about the peace. The English had conquered New Holland in America, whereupon this former Dutch colony became British, with New Amsterdam renamed as New York. In 1674-1675 the Netherlands were once again struck by a series of serious storms and floods. It motivated him to create a dramatic illustrated narrative: 'Klacht Over De Rampspoed in de Republiek Tussen 1672 en 1675' (1675). Eight small images in separate panels surround one larger illustration in the center. The miniature panels depict and describe all the individual disasters which had tormented the Netherlands throughout the past five years, while the central image shows a woman begging God for help, "because we are going down under", as the description underneath the image reads. When the French-Spanish War (1683-1684) broke out De Hooghe naturally protested against Louis XIV's war politics. The cartoon 'Tirannien Tegen De Gereformeerden in Vrankrijk' (1685), features 13 panels, again with 12 smaller ones surrounding a central one. The work shows various examples of "tyranneous deeds committed against the reformed in France". There is no real narrative, though alphabetical letters on each image suggest a reading direction. All scenes depict protestant people being mistreated, tortured and executed by Catholics in France.

'Herstelling Der Waere Godsdienst en de Grondwetten in G. Brittannien' (1688).

A few years later events changed in the Netherlands' favor. In 1688 the Glorious Revolution took place in England. King James II was deposed and fled to France. De Hooghe celebrated this with the triumphant cartoon 'Herstelling Der Waere Godsdienst en de Grondwetten in G. Brittannien' (1688). Ten miniature panels with written explanations underneath each illustration visualize the monarch's fall from grace step by step. The central image depicts his arrival in St. Germain, France, where he is welcomed by Louis XIV. In this propaganda piece De Hooghe claims the entire event helped "the real religion and constitution being restored in Great Britain." Indeed, James II was the last Catholic monarch of the U.K.. Since his daughter Mary was married to prince Willem III of Orange it ironically made Willem the next king of England! The new monarch crossed the Channel soon to be crowned in London. De Hooghe was one of the distinguished guests to travel along with him. He provided an eyewitness account with 'Vertrek van S.K.H. naar Engeland, den 11 Nove. 1688', which visualized his impressions of the boat trip. The horizontal image on top of the page portrays the royal war fleet departing from the harbour while a crowd waves them goodbye. The panel below the page depicts the same fleet arriving in Brixham. In the center of the page we see a portrait of the king. The text on the left provides a written explanation in Dutch, while on the right side the same text is written in French. Naturally a similar comic strip-like drawing about the coronation day couldn't stay behind. 'H. Maj. Willem III en Maria Gekroont Tot Koning en Koningin van Engelant' (1688) shows all aspects of the ceremony told in panels with descriptions underneath.

''H. Maj. Willem III en Maria Gekroont Tot Koning en Koningin van Engelant' (1688)'.

Apart from being a political cartoonist De Hooghe was also notorious for his pornographic drawings, among others 'De Dwalende Hoer' - which depicted various sexual positions - and an illustrated version of Boccaccio's classic novels. These "dirty books" sold well, but also gave him a depraved reputation. In 1681 a book titled 'Het Wonderlijk Leeven van 't Boulonnois Hondtje' appeared, which claimed that De Hooghe once stole a watch, sold forged paintings and committed incest with his daughter. Soon more stories started to spread, accusing him of forcing his wife into prostitution and ridiculing the Bible and religious ceremonies. By 1690 moral guardians and religious fanatics badmouthed him as a blasphemist and a pervert, though the authorities also had reasons to tar-and-feather him. De Hooghe's anti-French cartoons went straight against the policies of the majors of Amsterdam, Johannes Hudde, Nicolaes Witsen, Johan Huydecoper and Jacob Boreel who were in favor of trade with France. It certainly didn't help that, even as a member of the Reformed Church, De Hooghe was quite a libertarian thinker who admired philosophers such as Baruch de Spinoza and Balthasar Becker.

Final years and death
Eventually De Hooghe moved to Haarlem where he would stay for the rest of his life. He'd inherited quite a sum of money from his uncle and enjoyed more protection there from like-minded political friends. In his new home city the artist established his own art school and became regent of a religious building. He making erotic illustrations and political propaganda for Willem III. Together with Ericus Walten and Govert Bidloo he produced anonymous illustrated pamphlets, several targeting the same Amsterdam officials who had pestered him out of the city. It all led to another court case. At first De Hooghe managed to debunk a few untrustworthy witnesses to his so-called "crimes", but in the end even his friends in the city council were fed up with him. De Hooghe then blamed everything on Walten, who was jailed and later committed suicide in the Haagse Gevangenpoort.

In 1692 De Hooghe became a secret agent, uncovering the plans of two Italians who planned to destroy the dykes at Rotterdam and Amsterdam. In the final years of his life he even created a satirical illustrated magazine, Esopus in Europa (1702-1713). He passed away in 1708. After his death his widow burned many of his erotic drawings out of fear of juridical prosecution.

Books about Romeyn de Hooghe
For those interested in De Hooghe's life and career, Henk van Nierop's 'The life of Romeyn de Hooghe 1645-1708. Prints, Pamphlets, and Politics in the Dutch Golden Age' is a must-read.

Romeyn de Hooghe by Jacobus Houbraken, after Hendrik van den Bos.

Romeyn de Hooghe at Het Geheugen van Nederland (Delpher)
Romeyn de Hooghe at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
Romeyn de Hooghe at the Rijksmuseum

Series and books by Romeyn de Hooghe in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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