Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Karl Marx Grave at 60

Yesterday was the 133rd anniversary of the death of the political philosopher Karl Marx. Sixty years ago, after Marx and family members were dug up and re-interred at a prime location within the east side of London's Highgate Cemetery, a giant bronze head mounted on a huge stone bulk was unveiled. It was 1956, this was the Cold War, and a new grave of Karl Marx, complete with its massive monument, towered over the surrounding gravestones. The sculptor was Laurence Bradshaw.

Ever since, people from the world over have been drawn to Highgate's genteel landscape to gaze up at Marx, and contemplate those words inscribed below the head: “Workers of all Lands Unite”.

A rare image of Laurence Bradshaw's first sketch for the Marx Monument

Laurence Henderson Bradshaw (1899-1978) was never actually credited on the final work. A politically active Communist, in 1955 he'd won the Marx Monument Committee's competition to sculpt a special headstone for the Karl Marx grave.

Born in Wallasey, Bradshaw was also an engraver, painter, and theatre set designer. He had been elected Master of the Art Workers Guild in 1958. 

But, after his Marx head, Bradshaw was by-passed by the establishment, though commissions continued, mostly from within the Socialist community. 

Original Postcard produced by Judges Limited, Hastings. Date Unknown.

On March 18, 1978, ''Soviet Weekly' (London, G.B.) published the following news, titled ''Laurence Bradshaw'': 

''SOVIET WEEKLY deeply regrets to report the death in London last week of the noted sculptor Laurence Bradshaw, a long standing friend of our paper and for many years a prominent leader of the movement for friendship with the USSR. Mr Bradshaw was chairman of the British-Soviet Friendship Society. A fellow of British Sculptors, he was perhaps best known for his monumental statue of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. Mr Bradshaw was 78.''