Monday, 27 March 2017

Sørensen! Sørensen!

Pages for a new History of Political Cartooning in Denmark 

A certain personage keeps popping up in the first generations of Danish cartooning: Hr. Folket (i.e. Mr. People) while still a subject of the King, but from 1849 when he was a citizen in his own right, he became Hr. Sørensen / Mr. Sørensen.

His chosen name was the closest at hand, taking that of his publisher. Not that he had chosen a new master. On the contrary, a publisher is responsible for what he is printing. It is the publisher and not the cartoonist, who enters the courtroom or goes to prison if it comes to that. Responsibility implies a free citizen.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 77, August 28, 1852.
The cover spells "announcement", the ministry is lulling him to sleep beforehand.

Mr. Sørensen served a double purpose. He would generally be asleep, which was too how he was first presented.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 88,
November 13, 1852.
ABC in images: spelling the difference
between nobles and commoners.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 63,
May 22, 1852.
When international agreements were bent against
the expectations of Mr. Sørensen.

His sleeping indicated his lack of rights to involve himself in the matters of the state, just as it indicated his lack of interest in changing his situation, and so drawing him was at once a wake up-call, Oh, come on! - to the readers of the satirical magazines as it pointed to the need of their active involvement in what was going on.

Speaking of satirical magazines, he first appeared in Corsaren and went on to Pjerrot and Folkets Nisse, first and foremost. Peter Klæstrup was his cartoonist, but he was to be drawn by later cartoonists such as Knud Gamborg.

Being a visual character his main characteristic was his lack of all things visual. He had a soft, rounded belly and soft, rounded features. He was the next thing to a non-entity.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 87, November 6, 1852.
Mr. Sørensen lapping up all he is told on the German prince created
heir to the Danish throne in London.
"Bon appetit, you, who would so reluctantly change your cap", the text concludes.

The only thing akin to a revolution on him was his nightcap with reminiscences from the French revolution. The possibility of his rebellion was a constant presence.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 49, February 14, 1852.
Portrait of a French interpellation
(formal request that may lead to a vote of no
confidence) about to lay an egg.
And yet Mr. Sørensen remained in contrast to the European uprisings that were not far away in geography and time. As such he was a harsh comment on those busy declaring national characteristics, such as the author Henrik Hertz who in a 1839-novel described the "foreign disease" from which the young was suffering.
Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 49, February 14, 1852.
- which is how a Danish one should look too. Only, the egg is different.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 75, August 14, 1852.
Mocked by taxes, the absence of an electoral law and
the revision (i.e. reduction) of the Constitution.

No, as Hertz pointed out: the Danish culture was an old one, based on the mutual trust between the King and his people. Demanding it all written down into a constitution was nonsensical! It only served to undermine everything, Hertz declared.

Trust, moderation, calm, and speaking quietly were the typical characteristics with which the Danish culture was described, with a direct political aspect to it, as Hertz was but one example of. He knew very well, in fact he wrote because of it, that journalists were being censored, some for life by the King at the time.

So Mr. Sørensen was phlegm impersonated. The no-one-in-particular as opposed to the loud and personal voices of the "foreign disease".

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 45, November 11, 1865
Mr. Sørensen questioning the sympathies of a politician.
His mere presence was a mocking of the "Danish" characteristics, exposing the weakness of body and mind of it. Calm and moderation was translated into compliance. None of which should be lauded, but declared a problem.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 48, February 7, 1852.
Mr. Sørensen on the diplomatic balance beam,
"We are at the ending of the beginning"
- which proves that Churchill was quoting and not inventing the phrase a 100 years later.

It was a clever move not giving him any of the national symbols, which were newly sung at the time. He could have been an farmer with heavy wooden shoes pondering on the harvest in the setting sun. Instead, he was a citizen. Someone with a wife, children and a home, but they were hardly even delineated.

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 36, September 8, 1866.
"Danish national fashion in Paris"
Mocking Napoleon III for having turned his Phrygian cap into a nightcap too,
i.e. being a chicken when dealing with Germany's Bismarck.
He was drawn as the one paying taxes, having wishes and anxieties, he was asking questions, because that was the other side of him: he was everyone.

He surveyed negotiations between states, when he did not undertake them himself, showing that the free citizen forms part of that state negotiating.

He negotiated the right too to get out of the nightcap and into something more dignified.

Every time he was told that was an honor that did not belong him, not yet at least. He had a job to do.  

Peter Klæstrup, Folkets Nisse, No. 46, January 24, 1852.
Mr. Sørensen hunting for his political rights.

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