Iconography of the Labour Movement: Part 2: Socialist Iconography, 1848–1952

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This is Part 2 of a two-part study which aims at preliminary conclusions regarding the iconography of the international labour movement. Earlier research in the fields of social history, art history and visual rhetorics has been consulted for this purpose. After 1848, emerging socialist parties and labour unions depended on republican iconography for their manifestation of collective identity. The republican virtues of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity remained important, but Fraternity was gradually replaced or merged with Unity and Solidarity. In a process akin to the identification of the goddess of Liberty with a more common “Marianne”, the representation of Unity and manual work in socialist iconography became focused on images of individual male or female workers. In earlier prints and illustrations, these representations have strong affinities with how the concept of labour was personified in official monuments of the same period. Later, the doctrine of socialist solidarity between agricultural and industrial workers transformed the bipartite iconographic scheme of earlier personifications of Unity into a representation of agriculture and industry, or country and city. After 1917, the dilemma of how to represent dual aspects of society and its functions also included questions about the representations of the socialist leader. The Hjalmar Branting monument in Stockholm serves as an example of how the iconography of reformist social democracy is not always comparable to Soviet socialist realism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-205
Number of pages49
JournalICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildforskning – Nordic Review of Iconography
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • personification
  • composition
  • Labour Unions
  • social democracy
  • Communism
  • Russian Revolution
  • Soviet Union
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • USA
  • Sweden
  • Iconography


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