Cut Out!

Item Description

Joseph Keppler. Chromolithograph. Puck. 1885.

Although the caricature Cut Out! was published in the American satirical newspaper Puck, Joseph Keppler is pointedly mocking the nineteenth-century European colonization of Africa. This event lends itself well to satire, as there is already a comical element in the idea of an elaborate competition between European countries to prove their own superiority and power. Poking fun at the antics of many esteemed European politicians is then easily accomplished by exaggerating the trademark mustache of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and obsequious fawning of the British PM William Gladstone.
Within this humorous take on colonization there is a serious criticism of it, as Keppler hints at the corruption of European politics by suggesting that fawning over Africa comes at the expense of Europe itself. This interpretation of colonization hinges on the idea that Africa has no real value to Europe beyond bolstering reputations, which further complicates the caricature by making Africa the butt of the joke. In the context of America and European racial discrimination, the caricature’s humor then becomes racist as the very image of a black woman dolled up in Western clothes is meant to be both ludicrous and comical.