‘All images of Marx are good’
‘All images of Marx are good’
The oldest photograph of Marx we have today dates from 1861 and the original is kept at the Karl Marx Haus in Trier. This picture of Marx, who was 43 years old at the time, was taken in London. He promptly sent copies to friends and acquaintances, among them Ferdinand Lassalle. On 8 May 1861, Marx wrote to him, ‘I enclose two small photographs, one for the countess’, he was referring to Lassalles partner Sophie von Hatzfeldt, ‘to whom I would ask you to convey my best respects, and one for yourself.’
Two days later he wrote to Friedrich Engels ‘Herewith d'abord a photograph. Lupus and Gumpert shall each have ditto as soon as I have got some more prints. I had the thing done, partly for my cousin in Rotterdam, partly in exchange for the photographs I had been given in Germany and Holland.’ Lupus was the nickname Marx and Engels used for their comrade Wilhelm Wolff, with whom they had founded the Communist League. Eduard Gumpert was a friend and doctor from Manchester.
On the back of one copy, which today is kept at the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, Louis Kugelmann, a friend of the Marx family, wrote: this copy was ordered by Bertha Markheim, a friend of the family in Fulda in 1863. Marx’s wife Jenny wrote to her in 1863: ‘That you wish to duplicate my husband’s photo greatly pleased him and the children. Yet, they believe there are better pictures and the girls insist on taking a new one. Karl, however, has been suffering from an inflammation of the eyes for several days that totally disfigures him’.
Wilhelm Liebknecht later wrote about the portraits of Marx: ‘I do not know a single bad photograph of Marx. All show him how he was because he always showed himself how he was. All images of Marx are good.’
‘Glas thing’ with Marx’s daughters and Engels
19 May 1864. This photograph was probably taken during a four-day trip Friedrich Engels made to London. The picture shows Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Marx’s daughters Jenny, Eleanor and Laura. The picture is a so-called daguerreotype, one of the earliest forms of photography, whereby pictures were captured on a silver iodide coated glass. Marx’s oldest daughter Jenny sent the picture to Engels on 6 June, a fact mentioned by Marx in a letter to his friend the next day: ‘As the new photograms we intended to have taken have not yet materialised, little Jenny yesterday sent you the glass thing.’
Engels replied promptly. On 9 June 1864 he wrote to Marx from Manchester: ‘I have cleaned up the glass photogram a bit and now find that it's very good. I shall show it to Gumpert and his wife this evening.‘ Eduard Gumpert was Engel’s physician in Manchester and a good friend.
This now famous photograph became public in February 1948, 84 years after it was taken. The Soviet newspaper Pravda published the picture along with a note that Marx’s grandson Edgar Longuet had donated this family relic to the Marx-Engels-Lenin-Institute.
‘Sunny picture from Margate’
Louis Kugelmann received this photograph enclosed in a letter from Marx’s wife Jenny on 1 April 1866.
She wrote to Kugelmann, a close friend of the Marx family in Hanover that, on the recommendation of his doctor Eduard Gumpert, her husband had decided to ‘spend a few weeks at the seaside’ […]. He has now been in Margate, a coastal resort quite near here, for nearly 2 weeks […]. Yesterday he sent me his photogram, and since you would perhaps appreciate a sunny picture of the man to whom you have shown so much friendship, although you do not know him personally, I am enclosing 1 COPY with this note.’
Marx travelled to Margate on 15 March 1866 and wrote to his daughter Laura on 20 March that he was going to let himself be photographed, ‘since you get here 12 cartes de visite for 3 s. 6 d. and 48 cartes for 10 sh.’
Marx and his daughter Jenny Caroline
This picture too was taken during Marx’s stay in Margate at the end of March 1866. Many publications wrongly subtitled it ‘Karl Marx with his wife’. It actually shows Marx with his oldest daughter Jenny. On 16 March 1866, one day after he arrived at the seaside resort, he wrote to her that he was expecting her in Margate, where, ‘after some erratic course’, he found lodging, ‘in front of the sea, a large sitting room and a bedroom,10 s. per week. When striking my bargain the additional clause was agreed upon that, on your arrival, you will get your bedroom for nothing.
The first thing I did was to take a warm sea-bathe. It was delicious, so is the air here. It is a wonderful air. As to boarding houses, they are about empty now, and, as I understood the librarian, hardly yet prepared for the reception of guests. As to dining-rooms, there was some difficulty to get at a proper one, but by the by this obstacle will be overcome. And now, with my best compliments to all, by-bye. Yours Mohr. And in post scriptum he added, ‘I have already walked five hours to-day.‘
‘A little maliciousness in the likeness’
In mid-April 1867, Karl Marx sent the Otto Meißner publishing house in Hamburg the first volume of Capital. Then, from 17 April until the middle of May, he visited the Kugelmann family in Hanover. It was there, in Friedrich Wunder’s photo studio that this picture which is famous today was taken, a photograph which apparently enthused Marx’s daughter, Jenny, at the time: ‘I am delighted with the photograph’, she wrote to her father. ‘I don’t remember ever having been more agreeably surprised. It is a splendid one – lifelike. No painter could have put more expression into it. I am beginning to think the man is no mean artist. I have already framed it […].’
On 8 May her younger sister Laura then wrote: ‘Your photograph pleased us immensely. I admire especially the eyes and forehead and expression: the first have the true ‘roguish twinkle’ I am so fond of in the original, and this is the only one of your shadows which unites the two expressions of a sarcasm and good nature of the substance: a stranger, I think, would consider only the last but I, who look upon it with a peculiar ‘bird’s eye’ of my own, spy a little maliciousness in the likeness, very pleasant no doubt to your friends but calculated to play the deuce with your enemies. Paul and I fell out on the subject of your picture, for he declared he had never seen you so well arranged and got up – but always (only with one exception) in your frock-coat and ruffled hair, while I told him that I had seen you often in precisely such trim, and that I know you better than he does.’
Marx answered: ‘I am very glad that my photogramm has met with such good reception. The shadow is at all events less troublesome than the original.’
‘About a dozen friends are plaguing me for them’.
This photograph of Marx in profile was taken along with the previous pictures. Not only his family but also his friends and comrades liked these pictures. On 1 November 1867, roughly six months after the picture had been taken in Hanover, the ‘Börsenblatt’ published a note that both portraits were being sold at Carl Brandes’ bookshop in Hanover, in business card format for six silver pennies a piece. Marx at this time had no copies left. On 11 January 1868 he wrote to Louis Kugelmann: ‘finally I would ask you to be good enough to send me about 12 copies of my photograph (only the full-faced one). About a dozen friends are plaguing me for them’.
Three years later Marx’s daughter Jenny asked Kugelmann for another dozen copies. As she wrote, Vanity Fair was planning to publish a portrait of Marx. On 3 October 1871, she thanked Kugelmann for the photographs she had received, ‘My best thanks for the portraits you have been kind enough to send us. They are excellent copies. I quite agree with you as to illustrated paper; but as […] there were many votes against us, I assure you I had to fight many a hard battle, and at length only succeeded in effecting a compromise – that is to say, both copies have been sent to the artist who is going to publish the portrait, and he is to decide between them, or to make use of both.’
On 11 November 1871, the Paris newspaper L’Illustration published the photograph that shows Marx from the front together with his biography. Later it was published in German, British and Spanish publications. In a letter from mid-October 1871, Jenny Marx promised to send Kugelmann copies of the English and French magazines that had published the picture.
‘To my little grandson. Old Nick.’
The picture shows Marx together with his eldest daughter Jenny. Based on a remark in a letter from Marx to Friedrich Engels on 23 January 1869, the photograph must have been taken in London in 1869: ‘The enclosed photogram is sent to you by Jennychen [...]. The cross (on the photogram of Jenny) is the Polish 1864 Insurrection Cross.’
Jenny Marx wore the cross as a sign of mourning for the Fenians executed in November 1867, who had fought against British rule in Ireland and were later arrested in Manchester. The Russian State Archive of Socio-Political Historyin Moscow keeps two original positives of the photo; Marx dedicated one to Gertrud Kugelmann, the other to Charles-Étienne Lafargue, nicknamed Fouchtras, his daughter Laura’s fourweek old son. On the back of the picture he wrote: ‘To my little grandson Fouchtras. London, February 3rd, 1869. Old Nick. / Meinem kleinen Enkel Fouchtras. London, 3. Februar 1869. Old Nick.’ Old Nick was Karl Marx’s nickname.
‘Nothing but mist’
Because the room and the clothes appear to be the same, it is believed that this picture is a variant of the previous one: Karl Marx with his oldest daughter Jenny, taken at the beginning of January 1869 in London. The photographs were only ready towards the end of the month so that Friedrich Engels could receive a copy on 23 January.
In his letter to Louis Kugelmann dated 11 February 1869, Marx emphasises how dependent photographers at the time were on weather and lighting conditions: ‘Dear Friend, The delay in this letter may be ascribed to two circumstances. First, the dammed foggy weather here – NOTHING BUT MIST – has loaded me with a nearly four-week quite extraordinarily vicious influenza. Second, I had the enclosed photograms taken at least 7 weeks ago but, as a result of this very weather and atmospheric darkness, the things could only be printed from the plate very recently.’
‘To his Wenzel’
Marx gave this photograph as a present to his friend Louis Kugelmann in the summer of 1872. On the back he wrote: ‘To his Wenzel. London. 26 June 72. Karl Marx.’ Wenzel was Louis Kugelmann’s nickname.
‘Yours fraternally. Karl Marx’
This photograph is a variant of the previous picture, taken by the London photographer John Mayall in 1872. It served as a template for Marx portraits in several editions of his books, for example, in the first French edition of 1872 of the first volume of Capital.
The original is now in the US and forms part of the estate of William Harrison Riley, a member of the first International and editor of the newspaper The International Herald in London. On the back he wrote ‘Given by Karl Marx 1872 to W. H. R.’ Marx, on an extra page, added the remark: ‘Yours fraternally, Karl Marx’
‘At his sprightly Olympian ease’
This photograph is one of four pictures taken by John Mayall in London in August 1875, when Marx was 57. Three original copies include dedications by Marx to the English writer Matilda Barbara Betham-Edwards, the German journalist and literary critic Siegmund Schott, as well as to Wilhelm Liebknecht’s wife Natalie: ‘In friendly memory. Karl Marx. London. 13 October 75.’
Later, these photographs would belong to the most well-known and widely disseminated portraits of Marx. After his death, friends and comrades alike disseminated pictures of Marx in their countries. In his role as executor of Marx’s estate, Friedrich Engels decided to use the photographs from 1875 because, as he wrote in April 1883 to Eduard Bernstein, ‘It is the last and best picture to depict Moor at his sprightly Olympian ease, confident of victory.‘
Copies on detour
Numerous copies of the photograph from August 1875 are held today by the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History. The Marx house in Trier also holds one original positive, dedicated to Roland Daniels, the son of a comrade of Marx and Engels in the Communist League.
After Marx’s death, Friedrich Engels immediately set out to produce copies of the photographs made by Mayhall. On 28 April 1883, he wrote to Eduard Bernstein: ‘Mayall, the leading London photographer always to work for Marx, has the principle: WE DO NOT TAKE MONEY FROM EMINENT PEOPLE. SO we can't now press the man for copies (he is extremely muddled), except by a roundabout route. Hence we have given him an order, claiming it was for a German bookseller, for 1,000 cartes de visite (£12 = M240 = 24d. each) and 200 CABINET PORTRAITS (3/4 figure) à £8 = M160 = 80d. each. […] I am offering them to you, and to Liebknecht and Sorge in New York after deducting those we need ourselves.’
Even more copies
Original copies of this picture, belonging to the series of photographs which were taken by John Mayall in August 1875, are also kept by the archive in Moscow. They too include dedications: to Martha Stadler, the owner of a hotel where Marx had stayed for a cure in the health resort in Karlsbad, as well as to Richard Garnett, the superintendent of the British Museum.
To meet the requests of numerous friends and comrades, who wished to disseminate pictures of Marx after his death among the workers of their countries, Friedrich Engels made sure he had enough copies. On 1 May 1883 he wrote to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in New York, a member of the International Workers Association, who had for many years corresponded with both Marx and Engels, ‘So as to obtain a good photograph of Marx, we have ordered from Mayall, the leading photographer here, who took the last ones of him, 1,000 cartes de visite; 200 CABINET SIZE, 3/4 figure. You can have some of these at cost price— I have also offered them to Liebknecht and Bernstein in Zurich. If the above quantity does not suffice, no doubt we shall be able to get hold of more, but a quick decision is necessary.’
By mid-June 1883, Engels sent copies to Bernstein and a few weeks later also to Sorge.
Marx’s portrait goes to space
On the back of the original positive, Marx wrote the following dedication: ‘Salut et fraternité (Greetings and fraternity). Karl Marx. London. 27 June 1880’. The dedication was later printed onto the front side of the picture. Copies of this photograph were widespread among socialists all over the world. One, held today by the archive in Moscow, has had a remark in Russian added on the back: ‘I acquired this picture during the sessions of the Second International in Paris in 1889. Alexandra Levandovskaya, 73 years old, Moscow.’
Lenin too owned one copy. He had written Marx’s birthdate and date of death on the back. In 1927 his wife Nadeschda Krupskaja donated the picture to the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
On 12 October 1964, Russian cosmonauts took a copy of the portrait with Lenin’s notes to space. During their final earth circulation, they wrote their names on the back: ‘Boris Yegorov, Vladimir Komarov, Konstantin Feoktistov. 13. 10. 64, 9 o’clock 15. On board the spacecraft Voskhod.’
To my dear Cacadou. Old Nick
The last pictures of Marx, which we still have, were taken towards the end of February 1882 in Algiers. On the advice of his doctor, Marx, who had fallen seriously ill, travelled to Algeria, where he stayed from 20 February until 2 May 1882. Shortly after arriving, he sent a copy of this picture to his daughter Laura. The dedication read: ‘To my dear Cacadou. Old Nick, Algiers, end of February, 1882’. Shortly before Marx returned, Laura’s older sister also received a copy: ‘To my dear Jennychen. Old Nick. Algiers. End of April 1882.’