Known as the ‘founder’ of poltical propaganda art, Mihaly Bíro studied art in Budapest, Munich, Berlin and finally England, where he was influenced by the English “Arts & Crafts” movement under the tutelage of Charles Robert Ashbee. His iconic figures for the Hungarian Social Democratic movement – namely, the Red Man with the Hammer, the Working Class Giant and the Red Fist – became symbols of conscience for many who fought for voting rights and democratic representation in early 20th-century Central Europe. We’re proud to present this collection of 9 of his most powerful designs.
Népszava means “The Voice of the People,” and it was the newspaper for Hungary’s left wing. When Biró’s most iconic image, the Red Man with Hammer, appeared on a poster in 1912 – superimposed upon the image of a Népzsava front page – there was no mistaking the meaning. This was big news. Bíro created several variants of this iconic work. This version is from 1914, at the breakout of the Great War, and features a phalanx of cartoonish Austro-Hungarian soldiers desperately trying to restrain Red Hammer Man with chains (echoing the Marxist slogan, “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”) while Népszava’s lettering is blocked out, censored, naturally, since “the first casualty of war is the truth.”
“Man.” This symbolic image, advertising a Hungarian political weekly of the same name, is unmistakable in its meaning. Beyond the bars, at the prisoner’s feet, you can just barely discern the outlines of flowers, too faint to smell. Iconic.
This cri de coeur of a poster was created as the Great War stretched beyond its second year. The text at the bottom invites us to an artistic or craftsman-lottery for the benefit of the villages of Saros County, which were destroyed by Russian forces. In the crimson flames you can discern the outline of a Russian officer leaving the scene of the crime. Saros County is among the northernmost of the territories of the old Magyar kingdom, and became part of Czechoslovakia in WWI’s aftermath.