Cranes’ Prometheus

My Swedish book Morgonrodnad. Socialismens stil och mytologi 1871-1914, which translates into something like Reddish Dawn. The cultural style and mythology of socialism 1871-1914 appeared in 2016 and will in due time be published by Routledge. I was very pleased that the publishers for front cover chose a sketch by Walter Crane (1845–1915), identified as “the artist of socialism” by H.M. Hyndman because of his tremendous influence on the art and propaganda around the fin de siècle.* As pleased as I was, I however lamented the fact that thereby another sketch by Crane, also envisioning Prometheus revolting against the tyranny, would not be unveiled. I urge you to have a look on that beautiful image, in the collection at Whitworth Art Gallery. The most apparent difference between the two sketches is – besides the colour scheme obviously – the crown on the eagle’s head and – maybe – the Phrygian cap on Prometheus’.

* Morna O’Neill, Walter Crane 2010:15.


Nowadays, the Left is profoundly uninterested in fraternité, the red division on the French tricolour. It sounds too freemasonic and gendered, perhaps. Back in the late 19th century, fraternity was however arguably more important for socialists then liberté and egalité. To switch from “fraternity” to “solidarity” – like in this Red and Anarchist SkinHead image – is not without its semantic complications. “Solidarity” is to help people you have no special feelings for just because you know what it means to have human needs. “Fraternity” is on the other hand a cultural project aiming to make people feel affinity towards each other, i.e. it transforms co-humans into brothers and sisters. 

RASH 1.jpgThe three down-pointing arrows in the image are the old anti-Nazi/Eiserne Front sign, created by the social democrat Sergei Chakhotins/Tschachotin, author of “Dreipfeil gegen Hakenkreuz” (1933). Here surrounded by a Fred Perry-ish laurel-wreath, evoking cool hooliganism.