Herluf Bidstrup (born September 10, 1912 died December 26, 1988) is a genius Danish cartoonist of the 20th century, who has more than 5,000 works on his account. Biography of Bidstrup includes two main directions: humorous stories in pictures and cartoons. He achieved an unrivaled level of excellence in both areas. Subtly understanding life, the author turned his mini-stories into deep philosophical parables. In the work of Herluf Bidstrup, the funny is mixed with the scary, the sad with the cheerful, and everyday situations are brought to the point of absurdity. Until now, his works make the viewer smile.
Herluf Bidstrup ‘s biography
Herluf Bidstrup was born in Berlin on September 10, 1912. His father was a Dane. The boy’s early childhood cannot be called cloudless: war, famine, return to Denmark, an epidemic of the Spanish flu, which almost left the child an orphan Herluf Bidstrup loved to draw from an early age. Even in the evening, before going to bed, he ran his finger through the air, coming up with different plots.
By the reaction of his relatives, the boy saw that he easily manages to make people laugh, to distract them from problems. My father, an artist-decorator by education, was engaged in painting in his free time. He became a teacher and authoritative critic of the young talent. Herluf drew his first social caricature when he was only 10 years old. Subsequently, he admitted that while still at school he realized the crushing power of satire and used it as a weapon.
In 1931-1935, the young man studied at the Copenhagen Royal Academy of Arts.
Even during his student days, he began to print political cartoons in popular publications, drew for revues and for advertising bicycle races. Meanwhile, the international situation was heating up. Bidstrup’s cartoons of the Fuhrer, published in the magazine Kulturkampen, attracted everyone’s attention.
During the occupation of Denmark, Bidstrup served as a staff artist for the major government newspaper Social-Demokraten. “Comics” with anti-fascist content were a resounding success.
Herluf Bidstrup spent the years of World War II with his family at a dacha near Copenhagen. In 1943, he joined the Communist Party, which was then banned in the country, and collaborated with the underground newspaper Land og folk. Funny drawings-stories on the topic of the day in the form of postcards were issued in huge numbers, and the money earned went to the party fund.
The author’s handwriting of the genius had become well recognizable by that time.
After the victory over fascism, Herluf Bidstrup traveled a lot around the world. In 1952, as part of a Danish delegation, he first came to the USSR, where he was very loved. The cartoonist gained wide popularity among the Soviet reader thanks to his friendship with TASS journalist Mikhail Kosov (Rakhmiel Kosym), the compiler and translator of most of Bidstrup’s albums and the author of his biography. In collaboration with the director of animated films Lev Konstantinovich Atamanov, Herluf created the cartoon “Bench” in 1967, and in 1970 “It is within our power.”
In 1964, Herluf Bidstrup was awarded the Lenin Prize, and in 1972 he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. Both those in power and ordinary Soviet people were captivated by the talent of the Danish cartoonist. But in the West, they were wary of him: Bidstrup, very deftly and naturally, brought to the judgment of the crowd what the bourgeois society preferred not to notice.
The master of caricature passed away on December 26, 1988.
One of the patrol ships of Russia is named after Herluf Bidstrup. Bidstrup’s work did not have an exclusively political orientation. Most of all he liked to find funny in everyday life. A subtle psychologist, he perfectly understood human nature, exposing such vices as pride, excessive curiosity, arrogance, ingratitude, greed. The ability to convey an idea in a simple form is the lot of a genius, what distinguishes Bidstrup from other representatives of the “light” genre.
He had no respect for contemporary art. Herluf Bidstrup dedicated a series of stinging drawings to abstractionism and other fashion trends. He also teased the audience, ready to seek deep meaning in a single squiggle.
The most famous caricatures of Herluf Bidstrup
Bidstrup’s pictures are “read” from left to right. The heroes appear on them in motion, like on a TV screen. Several short episodes tell a small story with a plot, a climax and an ending, understandable to anyone, regardless of age and nationality. Herluf Bidstrup’s best cartoons include:
- Paying for Peace (1938) This short story in pictures reveals the essence of the Munich Agreement. The father (Czechoslovakia), under the pressure of a respectable old man (Chamberlain), agrees to give up a watch (Sudetenland) to the hysterically screaming kid (Hitler). The result of placating the tyrant is quite natural.
- “Humanism” (1945) is an extraordinary presentation of the political situation. The author denounces well-known cultural figures in Denmark, who, after the liberation of the country, defended local collaborators. In front of the compassionate Frau, a huge evil dog (fascism) pounces on a little boy (Denmark). After the boy’s victory in an unequal battle, the lady accuses him of cruelty.
- “Struggle for Freedom” (1947) an artist who always sympathized with people of labor, regretfully states: the core on the foot of the proletariat has not gone anywhere, at the cost of incredible efforts it was only possible to change the swastika to the dollar, that is, the power of fascism on the power of money.
- The Capitalist’s Nightmare (1951) is a cartoon created at the height of the war between North and South Korea. Bidstrup shows the true face of the capitalists, who can wear the mask of nice guys.
- Four Temperaments (1963) is one of the most popular works of the master of hand-drawn history. The movements of the characters, their facial expressions are expressive and eloquent. The reactions to accidental damage to the hat, characteristic of choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine people, are filigree.
The artist could never understand why laughter is valued cheaper than tears.
It is difficult to overestimate the contribution of Bidstrup to the development of caricature: with his help, this art form acquired a huge influence on public opinion. Herluf Bidstrup’s drawings are still being published in Russia in separate albums.