Fake News & Lying Pictures: Political Prints in the Dutch Republic

This exhibition, curated by Maureen Warren, is organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Anna Maria van Schurman (Dutch, 1607 – 1678), Self-Portrait, 1640, etching and engraving on laid paper, Krannert Art Museum purchase through the Iver M. Nelson, Jr. Fund, 2021-2-2 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023 to Monday, April 29, 2024

Comedians, editorial cartoons, and memes harness the power of satire, parody, and hyperbole to provoke laughter, indignation—even action. These forms of expression are usually traced to eighteenth-century artists, such as William Hogarth, but they are grounded in the unprecedented freedom of artistic expression in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. This exhibition explores the myriad and complex visual strategies early modern printmakers in the United Provinces used to memorialize historical events, lionize and demonize domestic and international leaders, and form consensus for collective action.                                                                                           

The Dutch Republic had much to offer artists: an influx of wealth and innovative ideas from religious and political refugees; new knowledge and commodities from global trade and exploration; new art markets; and more. However, the Dutch had no means of effectively censoring the media. Printmakers exploited this unprecedented freedom to criticize leaders at home and abroad and to try to shape political policy and action. The decentralized nature of the Dutch government also led to chronic infighting between rival factions, as well as to international conflicts about sovereignty, trade routes, and territories.  This volatility only provided more fodder for printmakers to create images, which numerous audiences relied upon to stay informed, celebrate victories and mourn defeats, and to stoke the fires of partisanship. 


Dutch printmakers experimented with graphic visual language in a daring and subversive fashion. They supplemented conventions and tropes inherited from medieval and Renaissance maps, city views, book illustrations, news prints, and polemical prints and established new forms of expression. While some of their prints employ visual puns and humor that even the illiterate could enjoy, others were captioned in Latin or French as well as Dutch, enticing educated elites across Europe to explore the relationship between text and image. Through mercantile and diplomatic channels, Dutch political prints transcended national and temporal boundaries to make a lasting impact. 


Fake News and Lying Pictures is sponsored in part by the Getty Foundation through its initiative, The Paper Project: Prints and Drawings Curatorship in the 21st Century; Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York; Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation: Netherland-America Foundation; Historians of Netherlandish Art.