Fragment of a picture story about the Amsterdam politics from 1927, dealing with the building of new labourer's houses under direction of alderman Floor Wibaut, among other things.

Elie Smalhout was a Dutch graphic artist and illustrator. During a short period he contributed cartoons and caricatures to the satirical weekly De Notenkraker. He spent most of his professional life working as a drawing teacher in Amsterdam, while providing artwork to socialist and Jewish organizations in his spare time.

Early life
Elias Smalhout was born in 1889 in the East district of Amsterdam into an orthodox Jewish family of diamond workers. He almost followed into his parents' footsteps, working as an apprentice in the diamond factory of the Boas brothers and the diamond cutting factory of Jacob Wolf Bottenheim. Around the same period (1903-1906) he helped the Dutch socialist cartoonist Albert Hahn in his atelier. He mainly did small chores, like preparing drawing materials, but he presumably also assisted on the inking of some cartoons. Although Smalhout continued to work in the diamond industry until 1920, he eventually chose a career in the arts.

Socialist work
Smalhout's early satirical drawings were obviously inspired by Hahn, but he later developed a more personal style, characterized by humor, emotion, involvement and accuracy. Mostly a self-taught artist, he began to produce artwork for the socialist movement in the 1910s. Between 1918 and 1921 he regularly published drawings in the satirical weekly De Notenkraker. Following the death of Albert Hahn in 1918, Smalhout's drawings appeared alongside those of Leendert Jordaan, Albert Hahn Jr. and George van Raemdonck. He additionally contributed to Algemeen Weekblad voor Stad en Land and Het Jonge Volk. In the following years he occasionally made illustrated reports of party meetings and portraits of prominent party members for the social-democratic newspaper Het Volk.


Political cartoon starring communist party leader David Wijnkoop (1910s?)

Drawing teacher
Smalhout was encouraged by his wife to further fulfill his artistic ambitions, and he enrolled at the State Academy of Fine Arts in September 1920. Among his fellow students were Jan Rot and Jo Spier. Smalhout's education lasted until 1926, and during these six years his wife Bregtje Sombogaart was the family breadwinner, working as a book keeper with the socialist printing firm De Vooruitgang (which later became De Arbeiderspers). Elie Smalhout eventually found employment as a drawing teacher at both the Craft School for the Alkmaar region and the A.B. Davidschool for boys in Amsterdam. Smalhout enjoyed organizing cultural excursions for the mostly Jewish students of the A.B. Davidschool, and made colorful flyers to announce these events. He did the same for the school's soccer matches. Some of these drawings featured popular cartoon characters like Walt Disney's 'Mickey Mouse' and E.C. Segar's 'Popeye'.

Further artistic work
In his spare time, he continued to produce artwork for the social-democratic cause. He painted and designed banners, floats for Labour Day and election parades, murals and the decoration of tableaux vivants. For the workers' party SDAP he designed the posters for the States-Provincial elections of 1927 and 1935 and the city council elections of 1935. From 1927 onwards, he regularly made drawings for De Fabrieksarbeider, a weekly magazine of a large trade union. He furthermore made portraits of well-known Jewish Dutch people for the magazine De Vrijdagavond, and provided artwork to De Joodsche Invalide and Koemie Orie, the magazine of the Marxist–Zionist Jewish workers movement Poale Zion.

Elie Smalhout suffered from a heart disease ever since he caught the Spanish Flu in 1918. Despite his weak health, he continued to work. He however passed away shortly before his 50th birthday, and three weeks after the German invasion of Poland. Smalhout always saw himself as a craftsman, and not an artist. Most of the timehe also stayed clear of heavy political debate. This might explain why it took until 2004 before an overview exhibition of his career was held in the Trade Union Museum in Amsterdam, initiated by his daughter Eline. Many of his remaining drawings and other pieces of art are in the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.

His son was Dr. Bob Smalhout (1927-2015), a well-known Dutch anesthesiologist and author.


'De wasch in 't Huisgezin van Jans, Voorheen en Thans' (fragment of another picture story, starring social-democratic Amsterdam aldermen Floor Wibaut and Monne de Miranda (around 1930)

Elie Smalhout art at the Jewish Cultural Quarter

Dutch biography on socialhistory.org

Series and books by Elie Smalhout in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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