image of man pulling lever
September 22, 2008 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find an iconic image of a side view of a man pulling on a very long lever.

After seeing an homage to the image in All Star Superman #12, I tried to find the original without any luck. I thought it was either from Metropolis by Fritz Lang or a Soviet Propaganda poster, but I can't find anything at dedicated sites or google image search.
posted by stavrogin to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by azlondon at 3:33 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Or this?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:39 PM on September 22, 2008

Response by poster: No, neither of those. In the Superman homage, the lever is about 9 feet long, terminating in the lower right corner with a long toothed gear. He's facing left and both of his hands are on it close to the top, his left leg is planted forward and his right back on the ball of his toe. He's standing on a floating, round translucent platform that resembles Saturn missing its top half. It looks like there are large vacuum tubes are in the background.
posted by stavrogin at 3:57 PM on September 22, 2008

Are you talking about the Soviet (style) poster? The one I'm thinking of is an illustration done in a sort of Stalinist style. I can't remember what it's called, but maybe that will help...
posted by dolface at 4:22 PM on September 22, 2008

I think this is what you are looking for. "Modern Times" with Charlie Chaplin.
posted by cosmac at 4:35 PM on September 22, 2008

Response by poster: I think there's a Soviet one, too, but I can't find it. It's definitely not Charlie Chaplin.
posted by stavrogin at 4:37 PM on September 22, 2008

I think I know what you're talking about, but I can't find it. However, that said, are you thinking about this image from Metropolis?
posted by Kattullus at 6:51 PM on September 22, 2008

It made me think of the Diego Rivera mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

But is it something more like this? I found that by searching for "labor poster" in Google images.
posted by waywardgirl at 7:01 PM on September 22, 2008

This one? Not quite what I see in my minds eye, but it's closer.
posted by Kattullus at 7:11 PM on September 22, 2008

Response by poster: I uploaded the Superman image to flickr here.
posted by stavrogin at 7:15 PM on September 22, 2008

Response by poster: are you thinking about this image from Metropolis?

Nah, it's the art deco-ness of the image that made me think Metropolis. I haven't actually seen the movie.

I happened upon Diego Riviera while searching and his style looks familiar to what I imagine, but I don't think it's him.
posted by stavrogin at 7:29 PM on September 22, 2008

Grr. I think I know exactly the image in question (a classmate of mine did a copy of it for art class exercise way back in high school), but my google skillz fail me. If it's the one I remember, it was less finely detailed (certainly no photography)/more stylized than the stuff that's been posted so far. Kinda art deco stylee with swatches of gradient.
posted by juv3nal at 8:03 PM on September 22, 2008

I definitely have seen the image of which you speak - just so you know that you're not misremembering. (Unless we're speaking of two very similar yet different pictures.) I saw it on a book cover not too long ago I believe, I'll keep looking for it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:29 PM on September 22, 2008

The first thing I thought of when I saw the Superman image was Atlas Shrugged, but he doesn't look upwards, and doesn't have a lever. Posting it here in case it's somehow the one you're looking for.
posted by bjrn at 12:20 AM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: I thought of the Ayn Rand illustrator, too, but no luck. I thought this would have been easier. With all of the people who know that they've seen it, but can't remember where, I'm starting to think it might have been something like an assigned book or textbook in school. The art deco image, at least.

The Soviet propaganda one should be dead easy to find, but isn't. I thought I remembered the man having a red handkerchief with the hammer and sickle in his back pocket, but I might be adding that.
posted by stavrogin at 6:07 AM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: That looks very familiar, kattullus. Maybe it is, or a sculpture based on the painting I have in my mind's eye.

I got this reply from the Smithsonian's Ask A Librarian service:

I searched several image databases and the Web by keyword. As you know, it is often very difficult to research an artwork without the artist's name or the title, and unfortunately, I was not able to find a reference to a specific artwork of a man pulling a lever that matches the image you provided.

You might want to look at works by the artists Thomas Hart Benton and Michael Lantz. Although I did not find an image of a man pulling a lever by either artist, there are some similarities between their works and the Superman image.

The image of the laborer appears often in the paintings and prints of Benton, and you can view some of his works by following the links on the following website:

ARTCYCLOPEDIA: Thomas Hart Benton

Also, the stance of the superman figure reminded one of my colleagues of the sculptures by Lantz titled “Man Controlling Trade” which are located at the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C.

You can view images of Michael Lantz’s models for the sculptures on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website at: . From this homepage, click on "Search Collections" under the section "Have a Question? Find an Answer." From there, click on the "Artworks" tab, and enter the first and last name of the artist in the required fields.

There are also images of the finished sculptures on the following website:

DC MEMORIALS: Man Controlling Trade

I’m sorry I could not identify the image, but I hope this information is helpful.


Alida Pask
Smithsonian American Art Museum

posted by stavrogin at 7:30 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

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