We’ve been looking a little at the relationship between words and art which has lead me to thinking about the relationship between words, art and protesting.
The Hero Image today is of the Luddites a radical organisation of English textiles workers who destroyed textile machinery in the C19th as a way of protesting for they feared the machinery was going to replace them in the industry. It is a misconception that the Luddites protested against the machinery itself in an attempt to halt the progress of technology. Over time, however, the term has come to mean one opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation, or new technologies in general. The Luddite movement began in Nottingham and culminated in a region-wide rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816. Mill and factory owners took to shooting protesters and eventually the movement was suppressed with military force. (Wikipedia) Below is an An 1884 engraving of Bohemian weavers destroying looms in a Luddite-style protest.
(Credit: Archiv Gerstenberg/Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)
Whilst not necessarily condoning the actions taken by the Luddites I do have a personal interest in this protest as some of my ancestors were hand weavers from Lancashire and Yorkshire and would have been directly affected by the industrial revolution. Below is a copy of one of the placards used in 1808 to protect the industrious weavers. Even within my own family some remained hand weavers for as long as possible whilst the others (particularly the younger members of the family) adapted to change and began working on the power looms. Other migrated to Canada, USA and Australia seeking a better life.
And another group of my ancestors lived a couple of villages away from where the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of six 19th-century Dorset agricultural labourers were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a friendly society and operated as a trade-specific benefit society. At the time, friendly societies had elements of what is now considered the predominant role of trade unions. On 18 March 1834 the Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to penal transportation to Australia. (Wikipedia) Below is an early illustration of the martyrs imploring mercy of their king.
Art in various ways plays an important part of protest movements starting with the simple use of painted signs:
(Credit: Reddit) To images:
(Credit: Global News)
On the 14 August in 1765, the British official charged with administering the hated Stamp Act was hung in effigy from an elm tree near Boston Common. A small group of merchants and master craftsmen had staged the prank, but soon a large crowd gathered to vent their anger at the Crown's interference with colonial affairs. Over the next weeks, the great elm emerged as the place in Boston for protest meetings. People of all classes — including unskilled laborers, enslaved people, and women, who were normally excluded from official town meetings — flocked to the Liberty Tree to post notices, hear speeches, and hold outdoor meetings. The practice caught on, and with opposition to British rule mounting, Liberty Trees were soon found in many colonial towns.* (Wikipedia)
Most leaders of protest movements have been immortalised in statue and visual images. We will be looking at examples of these but today I leave you thinking about this man.
Who was he? Let’s make this a quiz item. Clue: he helped change the life style of a large slice of the world.
I want to look at art and protesting in a little more depth. Some of what I will show you is controversial and does not necessarily represent my opinion. I have endeavoured not to offend anyone but as people interested in art we must consider how it is used in all aspects of our lives.