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From man-ape to ape-man
Albert Hahn

For Albert Hahn (1877-1918), political illustrator, I discovered the figuration title as a caption. ‘From man-ape to ape-man’ was under one of his satirical critical prints about the First World War.
A caricature, published in the political satire weekly ‘De Notenkraker’ (The Nutcracker) in 1915, by his hand: ‘’The evolution of man (on the occasion of the French troops’ new outfit): from man-ape to ape-man.’’

This fascinating sentence ‘from man-ape to ape-man’ is constructed by mirroring the same words. The number of letters in ‘van’ (from) and ‘tot’ (to) is equal. The sentence structure, together with the image of the reverse development of man to ape that is aroused, immediately speaks to the imagination.

It plays with time: improvement, deterioration, ‘pro-gression’, ‘re-gression’. The symmetrical order of words is compellingly expressed in the figuration composition. It is as if the reading direction has been turned on its head – from up to down, from down to up, forwards and backwards, ‘back to front’.

Incorporated in the artwork for Albert Hahn, ‘From man-ape to ape-man’ is a timeless critical note, inviting reflection.



‘From man-ape to ape-man’, column, 80cm x 80cm x 40cm.


Albert Hahn (1877-1918) was one of the most famous political illustrators in the Netherlands. The Press Museum named a prize after him. Albert Hahn could ‘‘make a banner from a piece of newspaper’’ (citation: Cornelis Veth).

Artwork: You Are Here
Artist: Martijn Sandberg
Material: concrete
Measurements: (lxwxh) 80cm x 80cm x 40cm
Project: Legacy of the Twentieth Century
Realisation and completion: 2019
Location: Oranje Vrijstaatkade, Oostpoort, Amsterdam
Commissioned by: Amsterdam Municipality, District Oost