[exhibition] Trailblazers

Exhibition Trailblazers

20th century illustrators and activism

Illustration Embassy
October 5 till December 10 2023, Westergas, Amsterdam

Untitled, © Estate of Jo Brocklehurst

From October to December 2023 the Illustration Embassy presents the exhibition Trailblazers: 20th century illustrators and activism at the Meterhuis at the Westergas in Amsterdam. 

The exhibition focuses on an exceptional generation of illustrators of the 20th century that were frustrated by the state of the world and engaged themselves​ around specific issues of their time (all of which are still relevant today). From racial discrimination, political memory, human and animal rights, economic rights, to gender, social and thinking norms, these illustrators cared and made images to make others care. For each illustrator, we focus on the strength of their unconventional gaze and the way they shaped our vision of society.

The impetus for this exhibition lies in research conducted by professor Emilie Sitzia and her master’s students at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Maastricht. They delved into a group of 13 influential illustrators and contemporaries of Fiep Westendorp; ranging from Pippi Longstocking’s illustrator Ingrid Vang Nyman, avant-gardist Tove Jansson, to Dadaist Hannah Höch. The researchers placed the significance and social impact of these illustrators in the international context of their time in a new way.

The exhibition Trailblazers, and its accompanying publication demonstrate how the medium of illustration challenged social and aesthetic norms of the time and had a lasting impact on society.
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Exhibition team Trailblazers
Emilie Sitzia, Marlies Visser, Gioia Smid, Noa Zuidervaart and Lipika Bansal
in collaboration with MA students from the University of Maastricht and from the University of Amsterdam. Publication by Floortje Smit.