Robert Koehler’s The Strike: The Improbable Story of an Iconic 1886 Painting of Labor Protest

Front Cover
Univ of Wisconsin Press, Apr 5, 2011 - Art - 235 pages
0 Reviews

Every work of art has a story behind it. In 1886 the German American artist Robert Koehler painted a dramatic wide-angle depiction of an imagined confrontation between factory workers and their employer. He called this oil painting The Strike. It has had a long and tumultuous international history as a symbol of class struggle and the cause of workers’ rights. First exhibited just days before the tragic Chicago Haymarket riot, The Strike became an inspiration for the labor movement. In the midst of the campaign for an eight-hour workday, it gained international attention at expositions in Paris, Munich, and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Though the painting fell into obscurity for decades in the early twentieth century, The Strike lived on in wood-engraved reproductions in labor publications. Its purchase, restoration, and exhibition by New Left activist Lee Baxandall in the early 1970s launched it to international fame once more, and collectors and galleries around the world scrambled to acquire it. It is now housed in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, Germany.

            Art historian James M. Dennis has crafted a compelling “biography” of Koehler’s painting: its exhibitions, acclaim, neglect, and rediscovery. He introduces its German-born creator and politically diverse audiences and traces the painting’s acceptance and rejection through the years, exploring how class and sociopolitical movements affected its reception. Dennis considers the significance of key figures in the painting, such as the woman asserting her presence in the center of action. He compellingly explains why The Strike has earned its identity as the iconic painting of the industrial labor movement.  
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction
3
Part I Robert Koehlers Early Life and Career
9
Part II The Origin and Initial Reception of The Strike
53
Part III Decades of Neglect
109
Part IV Rediscovery and Belated Acclaim
163
Afterword
203
Notes
205
Index
223
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2011)

James M. Dennis is professor emeritus of art history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is author of Karl Bitter, Architectural Sculptor, 1867–1915; Grant Wood: A Study in American Art and Culture; and Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry as well as catalog essays for the traveling exhibitions Grant Wood: An American Master Revealed and Grant Wood’s Studio, Birthplace of American Gothic.    

Bibliographic information