A snarling bulldog in bright red on a black background is quite an unusual motif for a poster. The dog’s broken chain suggests that it is about to fall upon anyone who happens by. And the terse line of text, Simplicissimus, does not directly clarify what Thomas Theodor Heine’s (1867–1948) poster is meant to advertise.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the magazines Jugend and Simplicissimus were founded in Munich, reflecting in different ways the trends of the day. While Jugend accompanied the discussions on historical styles, lending its name to Jugendstil, Simplicissimus was a satirical and combative weekly magazine. During the years of its publication, from 1896 to 1944, its criticism was directed mainly at the hypocritical bourgeois morals of the state powers and the Church. The caricaturist Thomas Theodor Heine, whose monogram can be seen in the lower left corner of the poster, was hired as head illustrator. One of his very first posters for Simplicissimus was already censored, whereupon Heine reacted in the following issue with a picture of soldiers destroying the poster. Wrapped up in what he was doing, one of the soldiers failed to notice a bulldog peeing on his leg. The aggressiveness of this bulldog is heightened in Heine’s 1896 poster. The dog became the trademark of Simplicissimus and a symbol of unflinching critique that knew no bounds. Thanks above all to Heine’s biting graphic commentaries on sociopolitical events affecting the entire German population, Simplicissimus soon became both popular and feared. A prominent example is the 1905 issue Heine designed addressing the artificially caused shortage of meat and the subsequent rise in meat prices. (Bettina Richter)