“It is generally believed that by depicting various reaction of young man’s household Repin tried to show diverse but mostly positive attitude of society toward revolutionary movements of that time. Actually, under strict censorship of Czarist Russia, it was a political declaration disguised as an everyday genre scene.” (Wikiart.org.)
In the second half of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, Russia changed dramatically. The Emancipation of serfdom, in 1861, led to a major social upheaval. Ironically, several former serfs had to pay for the piece of land they had been cultivating for centuries, but more importantly, an agrarian society was industrialized. (See Industrialisation of Russia, Wiki2.org.) Many Serfs became factory workers whose working conditions were unacceptable.
Matters culminated in a massacre known as Bloody Sunday, 22 January 1905. From 3,000 to 50,000 factory workers marched towards Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace to deliver a petition (←text) to Tsar Nicholas II. Some 4,000 demonstrators, an approximate number, were gunned down or injured by the Imperial Guard. Others were arrested.
Walter Crane by his father Thomas Crane (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
From Abolitionism to Socialism
Immigrants to the United States
The Declaration of Independence
However, before closing, I can’t resist taking a closer look at Walter Crane who dared say the “Chicago four” (see Haymarket affair, Wikipedia) had been wrongfully convicted. His contracts were cancelled and he was shipped back to Britain.
As I read about Walter Crane, it occurred to me that slavery laid the foundation for wage slavery and that, consequently, there might be a link between abolitionism and socialism (labour unions).
Most immigrants to the United States were people escaping persecution, poverty, a change of régime, not to mention revolutions or other evils. There was no room in Europe for the Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritans, but there was land in what was or would become the United States.
However, among immigrants to the United States, there were persons seeking far more than the acquisition of a little white house surrounded by a picket fence. They were seeking the privileges that birth conferred upon European aristocrats, and which money might confer upon certain immigrants. Slavery had afforded nearly free wealth to plantation owners. Once a plantation owner had bought his slaves, wealth was within easy reach. Could the same not be done for industrialists?
In fact, the British had laughed when they read the text of the Declaration of Independence (4 July 1876). Britain was about to lose its better-located American colony, but as principal writer of the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was seeking for the white what the black slaves could not attain and it so happened that Thomas Jefferson owned a large number of slaves.
If there were slaves, all men were not created equal. If there were slaves, the Creator had not endowed man with certain unalienable rights. Finally, if there were slaves, they did not possess a life of their own. They therefore had no rights and could in no way pursue happiness?
I am inclined to think that Jefferson meant what he wrote, but that he was dependent on his slaves to the point of blindness and that he perhaps could not see the blacks as altogether human. He was unable to travel to France, where he spent several years, unaccompanied. He took slaves with him.
Therefore, it is possible that slavery had left in the American mind the thwarted notion that wealthy did not have to earn their wealth, which could serve to explain why an employer hired children and overworked employees he also underpaid. There was a ‘precedent:’ slavery. Workers were not owned, but why should they be paid adequately when the goal of the industrialist was to make as large a profit as possible. This could explain why Walter Crane, a socialist, made himself persona non grata at a gathering of polite society in Boston. Employers had rights: a profit.
Design by Walter Crane (Photo credit: Google Images)
The Gilded Age
entitlement, or a “right” to
Slavery could be and was abolished, at a price: Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. But what could not be removed was a mindset. There was a precedent. Slaves had made the plantation owner rich, so factory owners would pay workers a less than adequate salary. Machines had increased productivity and so would employees.
“Increased mechanization of industry is a major mark of the Gilded Age‘s search for cheaper ways to create more product.” (See Gilded Age, Wikipedia.)
In other words, one type of slavery, the enslavement of the blacks, would be followed by another type: wage slavery.
“According to historian Steve Fraser, workers generally earned less than $800 a year, which kept them mired in poverty. Workers had to put in roughly 60 hours a week to earn this much.”
The Haymarket Affair
Walter Crane driven out of the United States
Socialism = Labour Unions
Consequently, abolitionism was followed by socialism or a degree of Marxism. After the Haymarket affair (1886), labour unions would develop. Employees paid union dues to be protected and it occurred to certain new Americans that they too could levy dues from businesses to ‘protect them.’
The Boston socialites who drove Walter Crane out of the United States may have been the wives of wealthy factory employers. In fact, they may have been the wealthy employers themselves. Yet, the social Walter Crane attended in 1891 was a Boston anarchist meeting. How could anarchists drive an artist out of a country? It seems that the expulsion of Walter Crane was a sign of things to come, a ‘precedent.’ A few decades later, McCarthyism arose.
(Photo credit: Google Images)
The Arts and Crafts Movement and Socialism
It should be noted however that although the Arts and Crafts Movementand William Morris are associated with socialism, William Morris owned a company and Kelmscott Press. Machines were used. They were not deemed useless; they were in fact very useful. Members of the Arts and Crafts Movement used machines. These increased the availability, at a reasonable price, of the various elements required to make a home beautiful: fabrics, wallpaper, decorative tiles, glassware, furniture, etc. Two stories merge: the Golden Age of Illustration, illustrations that could be reproduced, and the domestication of art, products that could be manufactured. However, Walter Crane was a member of the Art Workers Guild.
Almost immediately below, a photograph shows Morris & Co.‘s employees weaving at his Merton factory.
I forgot to mention that Walter Crane was a ‘clothes activist.’ He was “a Vice President of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union, a movement begun in 1890.” (See Walter Crane, Wikipedia.) Women were forcing themselves into corsets and very tight clothes. Crane therefore militated against tight-fitting garments. Bless him! About two or three decades later, Coco Chanel started designing flexible clothes. Jersey was a fabric Coco Chanel loved.
The impact of the Industrial Revolution cannot be understated. Machines did the work, but our industrialists did not differ substantially from slave-owners. The goal was a profit even if the welfare of workers was put in jeopardy. A profit was a noble goal. People tend to have a good opinion of themselves and they may close their eyes if money is to be gained and even ill-gained.
The Poppy Tile by Walter Crane (Photo credit: Google Images)
The Industrial Age and Socialism
In our discussion of art in Britain during the 19th century, I mentioned that William Morris and Walter Crane were socialist activists. The Industrial Revolution (beginning in the middle of the 18th century) led to an abuse of workers. Workers were often very young, they worked 60 hours a week over 6 days, the noise produced by machines was deafening, repeated movements, crippling, not to mention other detrimental consequences.
William Morris was born to a wealthy family and Morris & Co. was a successful business venture. By and large, employees of Morris & Co. (now Liberty of London and Sanderson [the designs]) were craftsmen, as was William Morris himself. The Kelmscott Chaucer, printed at the Kelmscott Press, named after Morris’ Kelmscott Manor, which he rented, was a modern illuminated manuscript. Morris was a calligrapher and painter as was his friend Sir Edward Burne-Jones. When the Kelmscott Chaucer was published, in 1896, it was as a joint effort and the first two copies were presented to William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.
However, the work differed from a craft in that it was printed, which made it accessible to several individuals. The books produced by the Kelmscott Press are ancestors to books produced by the current Folio Society. In particular, the paper will not age into a brittle and yellow paper. It is acid-free paper or nearly so. It is the paper used by waltercolour artists and printmakers. An artwork will not otherwise survive.
Such were the books printed by the Kelmscott Press, established in 1881. Liberty of London has to use mechanization or it could not offer fabrics, etc. in bulk. But times have changed. The forty-hour week is no longer a rarity and workers use headphones to deafen the sound. However, the abuse has not ended and the working environments where abuse occurs are not restricted to factories.
Neptune’s Horses by Walter Crane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
the arts domesticated
Arts & Crafts exhibition in the US
To keep this post brief, I will focus on Walter Crane’s activities as a member of the Socialistmovement (socialism) to which he was introduced underWilliam Morris‘ influence. As an artist, both he and Morris tried to “bring art into the daily life of all classes.” (See Walter Crane, Wikipedia.) The products of today’s Liberty of London can be described as carriage trade). For instance, the lovely tote bags it sells are not available to the poorer classes, poverty still exists, but it is art domesticated. There is truth however to the saying that no one is sufficiently rich to buy a product that will not last or to overindulge in the trendy.
Crane was not an anarchist, but when domestic and other art designed by members of the Arts and Crafts movement were exhibited in the United States, Walter Crane attended a social in Boston and said that the “Chicago four,” who had been executed, were wrongfully convicted. No sooner did he voice his opinion that he was shipped back to London. Workers were agitating in the hope of bringing the work week down from 60 hours to 48 hours.
On 4 May 1886, during a demonstration, in favour of the 48-hour week, someone threw a dynamite bomb at the police. People then start to shoot. Seven (7) police officers and four (4) civilians died and many more were wounded. The Demonstration took pace at Haymarket Square in Chicago. (See Haymarket Affair, Wikipedia). The Chicago four were the four men who were hanged. Although none had thrown the bomb, one or more of the seven men who who were convicted had built it. One of the convicted men was sentenced to life imprisonment, but seven men were condemned to death. Among the seven, four were hanged, the death sentence of two workers was commuted to life imprisonment, and one committed suicide. Prisoners were pardoned in 1893 by governor John Peter Altgeld. Because of the Haymarket Affair, May 1st became the International Workers’ Day.
According to Wikipedia, “[f]or a long time he [Crane] provided the weekly cartoons for the Socialist organs Justice, The Commonweal and The Clarion. Many of these were collected as Cartoons for the Cause. He devoted much time and energy to the work of the Art Workers Guild, of which he was master in 1888 and 1889 and to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, which he helped to found in 1888.”
However, Walter Crane is best known for his illustrations and, in particular, for his illustrated edition of Edmund Spenser‘s Faerie Queene (1894-96). But he was a socialist activist. William Morris was a card-carrying member, as may have been Walter Crane.
Britomart viewing Artegal
Holiness defeats Error
Florimell saved by Proteus
William Morris and Walter Crane were both associated with at least two of the art movements of 19th-century English. Crane started out with the Pre-Raphaelites as did William Morris. Both were members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and both were socialist activists. As for the movements, all culminated in the aesthetic movement and art produced as the 19th century drew to a close often displays the curvilinear Art Nouveau style. The borders of Walter Crane’s illustrations for Spenser’s Faerie Queene are an example of Art Nouveau. So are the borders of the Kelmscott Chaucer (see Sources and Resources).
Morris was the giant, the businessman, the coordinator, and immensely eclectic. In Walter Crane, we have the most prolific illustrator of his times. But both realized the industrial revolution had brought misery to workers and, therefore, to the lower classes. Awareness of this misery is associated mostly with William Morris and Walter Crane, but the Arts and Crafts Movement was nevertheless a statement.
Flora’s Feast by Water Crane, 1889 (Photo credit: Google Images)