'Der verbesserte Dove-Panzer, oder der kugelfeste und einbruchsichere Banquier' (1895). Translation: "The improved bullet proof vest, or the bullet proof vest and burglary proof banker." 

Arpad Schmidhammer was a well known late 19th-century, early 20th-century German caricaturist and book illustrator. He was a regular artist for the magazines Die Fliegende Blätter and Jugend. His cartoons satirized religion and war politics. His picture story, 'Totentanz der Politik' (1900), is a text comic starring the Grim Reaper as a war monger. Nevertheless Schmidhammer also made more patriotic war propaganda picture books during the First World War. His 'Die Geschichte von General Hindenburg' (1915) might be the earliest example of a German celebrity comic and stars general and politician Paul von Hindenburg. Schmidhammer's most famous political cartoon, 'Der Völkerbund... und wie er in Wirklichkeit aussieht' (1920) criticizes the weakness of the League of Nations in a sequential illustrated narrative. 

Arpad Schmidhammer was born in 1857 in St. Joachimsthal, Bohemia, a region in today's Czech Republic. He was the only son of artist Josef Schmidhammer and his wife Carolina. He studied art in Graz, Vienna (both in Austria) and Münich, Germany. By the mid 1890s his cartoons appeared in Fliegende Blätter and from 1896 on he was one of the first cartoonists and illustrators in the popular Münich youth magazine Jugend, launched that same year. Schmidhammer's art also appeared in the anthology 'Knecht Ruprecht' (1900) and the magazine Jugendland.

'Don Fernando', Fliegende Blätter #2654, 1896.

Totentanz der Politik
While a patriotic German, Schmidhammer was less respectful towards the Church and satirized the institution often in his cartoons. In 1900 he made a political cartoon in text comic format, with the text beneath the images, called 'Totentanz der Politik' (1900). The story depicts the Grim Reaper disguising himself to convince several heads of state to go to war. The work got more eerie undertones when 14 years later the First World War broke out.

'Totentanz der Politik' (Jugend #9, 1900).

World War I
During the First World War Schmidhammer made propaganda illustrations to support the German war effort. Some were published as picture books with stories told in rhyme, such as 'Lieb Vaterland magst ruhig sein! Ein Kriegsbilderbuch mit Knüttelversen' (1914), 'Die Geschichte vom General Hindenburg' (1915) and 'Hans und Pierre: eine lustige Schützengrabengeschichte' (1916). The books resembled text comics, with the illustrations following a sequence while the story itself was told beneath the images. 'Lieb Vaterland magst ruhig sein!' depicts the First World War metaphorically, with children representing each individual country. As one might expect from a propaganda book, it doesn't accurately portray how the war got started. Here two children representing Germany and Austria have fun watering their flower garden until Serbia and Russia start bothering them. 'Die Geschichte vom General Hindenburg' could be considered an early example of a celebrity comic, since it starred German general Paul von Hindenburg. 'Hans und Pierre' featured a German soldier, Hans, capturing a French soldier, Pierre, in a humorous way.

'Der Völkerbund... und wie er in Wirklichkeit aussieht' (1920). Translation: "The League of Nations... and what it really looks like."

League of Nations cartoon
In 1918 the First World War came to an end. Peace returned and the League of Nations was established in 1919 to keep it that way. Yet Schmidhammer feared the organization was essentially powerless. He made a two-sequential cartoon, 'Der Völkerbund... und wie er in Wirklichkeit aussieht' (1920), which became iconic. The first panel shows what the League of Nations imagines itself to be: an angel playing the lute in a grass field, while various sheep gather around to listen in harmony. The second panel shows the actual situation: a tiny pathetic peace angel is surrounded by beasts bound to attack her. Indeed, in only two decades time the Second World War broke out, despite all attempts of the League of Nations to prevent it. Luckily Schmidhammer never lived to see his prediction come true, as he already passed away in 1921.

comic art by Arpad Schmidhammer
'Lieb Vaterland magst ruhig sein! Ein Kriegsbulderbuch mit Knüttelversen'.

Illustration work
Schmidhammer also illustrated various children's books, many of which published by Jos. Scholz in Mainz, Ensslin & Laiblin in Reutlingen, and Schaffstein in Cologne. These include 'Waldmeisters Brautfahrt. Ein Rhein-, Wein- und Wandermärchen' (1897) by Otto Roquette, Ernst Brausewetter's 'Knecht Ruprecht' (1900), Otto Julius Bierbaum's 'Zäpfel Kern' (1905), Walther Ledig's 'Mücken und Tücken' (1918), Rudolf Dietz' 'Der Klecks und andere lustige Geschichten' (1919), Karl Wigo Weigand's 'Hänschen Jedermann', Maria Runge-Potenberg's 'Eine Fliegengeschichte' (1920), Anton Alfred Noder's 'Maxl Bierjung' (1920), Otto Ernst's 'Der Kinder Schlaraffenland' (1921) and new editions of 'Rotkäppchen' ('Little Red Riding Hood'), as well as Heinrich Hoffmann's 'Der Struwwelpeter'. Schmidhammer also published and illustrated children's books of his own. His book, 'Mücki', eine wunderliche Weltreise' (1920) was written by him and illustrated by Fritz Baumgarten. In 1896 he and Hans Thomas designed the costumes for a production of Richard Wagner's opera cyclus 'Rings des Nibelungen' during the Bayreuther Festspielen.

Arpad Schmidhammer passed away in Munich on 13 May 1921.

'Cover for Jugend magazine, 1897.


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