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Last updated:06 May 2015


Art: an introduction

"You realise we are a library, not a museum"  Ruth would say before accepting the donation of a painting, a decorative plate or another artefact.

Commemorative plate for the 1988 P&O strike by National Union of Seamen membersThe walls of the Library are covered with an array of trade union emblems, portraits, banners, satirical cartoons and other visual products of the labour and radical movements of the last 200 years. The Library has a wide range of books, articles and periodicals  on artistic subjects as well as a small collections of ceramics and sculpture. Highlights of the collection include a copy of the first ever photograph of a crowd, taken at a Chartist demonstration in 1848.

Ruth and Eddie were very fond of William Morris, who is probably better known for his decorative prints than his socialist activism. Another participant in the Arts and Crafts movement was  Walter Crane, one of the most prominent artists supporting the young socialist movements at the turn of the 19th to 20th century.

Satirical cartoons have always been a part of the labour movements weaponry. From Gillray and Cruickshank, via Will Dyson and Horrabin to Phil Evans and Steve Bell there is a long lineage of artist commentators who have savaged the deceit and hypocrisies of the ruling system and its supporters. Collections of these artists and many others are represented in our collection.

Harry Pollitt addressing the Mac-Paps by Syd Booth

Painting by Syd Booth

Local artists are represented in the paintings of Syd Booth, a veteran of the Spanish Civil war, and the sculptures of Sol Garson.