King Crimson Album Art: In the Wake of Poseidon

King Crimson In the Wake of Poseidon

The most com­mon cri­tique levied against King Crimson’s In the Wake of Posei­don is that it is a mere retread of ground already bro­ken by their leg­endary debut album In the Court of the Crim­son King. This “more of the same” charge applies to the entire pack­age; the com­po­si­tion, instru­men­ta­tion, musi­cal styles, and nomen­cla­ture all fit the gen­eral tem­plate of its pre­de­ces­sor, and the album art con­tin­ued the motif of fan­tas­ti­cal portraiture.

I hadn’t been look­ing for­ward to writ­ing this chap­ter in my visual his­tory of King Crim­son. Musi­cally speak­ing, In the Wake of Posei­don is not my least favorite King Crim­son album (for the record: Lizard, fol­lowed hotly by Earth­bound), but it is the one about which I have the most dif­fi­culty try­ing to find some­thing inter­est­ing to say. This may sound like heresy, but I don’t love In the Court of the Crim­son King either, but I value and appre­ci­ate it from a his­toric point of view. So it’s very dif­fi­cult for me to work up enthu­si­asm to lis­ten to or write about an album that sounds to me like a do-over. Coin­ci­den­tally or not, the 2010 40th Anniver­sary Edi­tion reis­sue is one of the few in the ongo­ing series not to fea­ture a liner note essay by Robert Fripp, so per­haps he didn’t know what to say either.

King Crimson In the Wake of Poseidon front cover painting 12 Archetypes by Tammo de Jongh
King Crimson’s In the Wake of Posei­don — the paint­ing “12 Arche­types” by Tammo de Jongh

Per­haps the super­fi­cial sim­i­lar­ity to their first album may be excused. Look­ing back from the per­spec­tive of 2012, King Crim­son is rightly praised for rarely repeat­ing itself. The few occa­sions when they did, such as In the Wake of Posei­don, now stand out in stark relief to their usual modus operandi of con­stant rein­ven­tion. For instance, I brought along a neo­phyte to a 1995 live show in Philadel­phia, and she was puz­zled by the sur­face sim­i­lar­i­ties between “Red,” “VROOOM,” and “VROOOM VROOOM”, which to her sounded like the same song three times (to be fair, the lat­ter actu­ally is a ver­sion of “VROOOM”, albeit upside-down and back­wards, and includes a bit orig­i­nally compsed for “Red”, but the point stands). Unfor­tu­nately, among the rare occa­sions when the band chose to pave the cow­paths was the crit­i­cal junc­ture between their debut and follow-up.

King Crim­son was not a band that slowly found an iden­tity and an audi­ence through exten­sive tour­ing and the oppor­tu­nity of a few albums to exper­i­ment while not under too harsh a spot­light, at least at first (a lux­ury enjoyed, arguably, by peers such as Gen­e­sis and Yes). Rather, they seem­ingly exploded out of nowhere in 1969, appear­ing fully formed, con­fi­dently pol­ished and dra­matic both live and in the stu­dio. Then they broke up.

With the found­ing lineup already dis­in­te­grat­ing by 1970, Robert Fripp found him­self “now in sole com­mand of Crimson’s musi­cal direc­tion” (Sid Smith, liner notes to 40th Anniver­sary Edi­tion) along with Sin­field. In what must have been a pro­foundly awk­ward arrange­ment, orig­i­nal mem­bers Greg Lake, Michael Giles, and Peter Giles returned as con­tracted ses­sion musi­cians in an attempt to keep the band alive while pre­serv­ing some styl­is­tic con­ti­nu­ity. The impos­si­ble task at hand: com­pos­ing and record­ing the prover­bial dif­fi­cult sopho­more effort to fol­low up on the sig­nif­i­cant crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess of their debut.

King Crimson In the Wake of Poseidon inner gatefold painting by Peter Sinfield
The inner gate­fold to King Crimson’s In the Wake of Posei­don — paint­ing by Peter Sinfield

Fripp, Sin­field & Co. wound up largely repeat­ing them­selves, much as a typ­i­cal sequel to a pop­corn sum­mer film is a ghostly echo of the orig­i­nal. Even the ver­bose album title is mod­eled on the wordy orig­i­nal. To fur­ther illus­trate my point, look at the first sides of each album: “Pic­tures of a City” sounds like a slightly rewrit­ten ver­sion of “21st Cen­tury Schizoid Man”. Then, “Cadence and Cas­cade” fills the spot for­merly taken by “I Talk to the Wind” — a bal­lad to cleanse the aural palate before the mel­lotron gloom & doom that close each first side: “Epi­taph” and “In the Wake of Poseidon”.

The struc­tural and tonal echoes were not just musi­cal. In the Court of the Crim­son King famously fea­tured two por­traits of human faces, the outer sleeve com­monly iden­ti­fied as the Schizoid Man and the inner gate­fold fea­tured a jovial Crim­son King. The In the Wake of Posei­don sleeve cemented this idea into a tra­di­tion: illus­tra­tive depic­tions of char­ac­ters men­tioned in the songs. In a case of over egging the pud­ding, the num­ber of char­ac­ters was mul­ti­plied by six.

In the Wake of Posei­don was orig­i­nally issued on LP for­mat in May 1970, in a lav­ish gate­fold sleeve. Eric Tamm found the art­work inter­est­ing enough to com­ment at length in his book Robert Fripp: From King Crim­son to Gui­tar Craft:

“Poseidon’s expan­sive, fold-out cover fea­tured a paint­ing by Tammo de Jongh called ’12 Arche­types’ – trick­ster, anima, child, magi­cian, and so on – and was per­haps an indi­ca­tion of an inter­est on Fripp’s part in Jun­gian psy­chol­ogy (Carl Jung, like Fripp, was con­cerned with forg­ing some fusion of magic and rea­son, intu­ition and intel­lect, inner and outer, art and sci­ence). As on the jacket of In the Court of the Crim­son King, [Peter] Sinfield’s lyrics were printed in their entirety, though (at least on my copy) the sil­ver ink and semi-glossy back­ground made them oner­ously dif­fi­cult to read.“
– Eric Tamm, Robert Fripp: From King Crim­son to Gui­tar Craft, page 48

Eric Tamm’s largely aca­d­e­mic tome on Fripp’s music and phi­los­o­phy rather unsur­pris­ingly attrib­utes the cover con­cept to Fripp. I haven’t found solid con­fir­ma­tion, but it was more likely Sin­field was the insti­ga­tor here, if not pri­mar­ily respon­si­ble. Sin­field was the dom­i­nant lyri­cist, live light­ing designer, and over­all direc­tor of the band’s visual mate­ri­als through 1972, and would still have been very much in charge of this area at the time. The bevy of clas­si­cal west­ern allu­sions in the lyrics, pri­mar­ily to the Greek God Posei­don and the Roman god Mars, sig­nal this album is def­i­nitely a Sin­field joint. He also per­son­ally con­tributed a tex­tural water­color paint­ing of his own for the inner gatefold.

Tammo de Jongh The Magic Circle
An image from the book The Magic Cir­cle by Tammo de Jongh

Jung pur­sued many avenues of study, rang­ing from the intel­lec­tual to the super­nat­ural. He is per­haps most famous as the founder of ana­lyt­i­cal psy­chol­ogy and, rel­e­vant to the dis­cus­sion at hand, the con­cept of arche­types. He under­stood them to be an infi­nite set of fig­ures or sym­bols that exist in our col­lec­tive uncon­scious, apart from either the ani­mal instincts that drive human behav­ior or what infants learn through edu­ca­tion and socialization.

Jung did not define a core set of these arche­types, but Richard Gard­ner delin­eated a “mag­i­cal cir­cle of the mind” char­ac­ter­ized by twelve arche­types in his 1969 book The Pur­pose of Love. Artist Tammo de Jongh col­lab­o­rated on Gardner’s sys­tem, and cre­ated a series of twelve sep­a­rate paint­ings com­pris­ing The 12 Faces of Humankind. Each self-contained paint­ing is signed and dated 1967.

Tammo de Jongh's The 12 Faces of Humankind
Tammo de Jongh’s The 12 Faces of Humankind, a series of paint­ings cre­ated for Richard Gardner’s 1969 book The Pur­pose of Love

Tammo de Jongh fur­ther cod­i­fied this sys­tem of twelve arche­types into his own book The Magic Cir­cle, pub­lished in 1974. But before that, The 12 Faces of Humankind were revisted and revised into a sin­gle paint­ing for King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon.

I have not been able to find doc­u­men­ta­tion regard­ing how these twelve indi­vid­ual paint­ings were com­piled and adapted into a sin­gle paint­ing, or indeed if de Jongh did it him­self. As astute com­menter Rick Roys­ton has pointed out, rough seams are still evi­dent around many of the fig­ures, par­tic­u­larly vis­i­ble around The Old Woman and The Child.

Tammo de Jongh's Old Woman from The 12 Faces of Humankind
Tammo de Jongh’s paint­ing “Old Woman” from “The 12 Faces of Humankind”, along­side a detail from “The 12 Arche­types” paint­ing used for King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon

12 Arche­types” depicts The 12 Faces of Humankind orga­nized into two sets of six, the first sub­set arranged around a lunar sym­bol, with the oth­ers illu­mi­nated by a solar icon on the back cover. The visual trope of celes­tial dual­ity appears often through­out the King Crim­son discog­ra­phy, par­tic­u­larly on Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and Three of a Per­fect Pair, not to men­tion the more abstract space imagery that fig­ures into The Con­struKc­tion of Light and Islands.

The sun and moon in Tammo de Jongh's painting The 12 Archetypes
Two details from Tammo de Jongh’s paint­ing “The 12 Arche­types”, one of many exam­ples of the lunar and solar dual­ity theme in King Crim­son album covers

With the aid of Wikipedia (a dubi­ous source, admit­tedly), Jon Green’s detailed mys­ti­cal analy­sis of Sinfield’s lyrics, and the site The Hope, here is a quick guide to what you’re look­ing at.

Arche­types appear­ing on the lunar front cover (clock­wise from top left):

  1. Young girl with key pen­dant: The Child. Green iden­ti­fies her as The Vir­gin, one of three God­dess arche­types in the paint­ing. The num­ber three is more than mys­ti­cal numerol­ogy: some of Fripp’s musi­cal com­po­si­tions for the album were built upon tri­tones, known col­lo­qui­ally as the Devil’s Inter­val or the Devil’s Triad. The lat­ter is is punned upon for the song title “The Devil’s Tri­an­gle”, and inci­den­tally, the god Tri­ton is the son of Posei­don. If only she had been wear­ing a cross pen­dant… I could have made all sorts of inter­est­ing con­nec­tions with Fripp’s choice of jew­elry for his por­trait on the Red sleeve!
  2. Melan­choly woman: The Enchantress
  3. Smil­ing man in tri­corn hat: The Joker
  4. Bearded man with horned hel­met: The War­rior. Gus­tav Holst’s “Mars” pro­vided the musi­cal basis for the track “The Devil’s Tri­an­gle”. Mars is the Roman god of war.
  5. Laugh­ing man with beard & gar­lands: The Fool. Green iden­ti­fies the Fool and Actress arche­types as an exam­ple of a male/female dichotomy expressed in the songs them­selves: with “Cadence and Cas­cade” pro­vid­ing a fem­i­nine view­point after the chaotic male aggres­sion of the open­ing track “Pic­tures of a City”. To my eyes, how­ever, it would appear that the artist more delib­er­ately paired The Actress with The Fool.
  6. Woman with blue face and lunar emblem: The Actress. Green iden­ti­fies this arche­type as the Earth Mother, who more likely actu­ally appears on the lower left of the back cover. The cres­cent moon icon is pos­si­bly related to the tantric sym­bols that appear on the Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and Three of a Per­fect Pair sleeves.

Char­ac­ters appear­ing on the solar back cover (clock­wise from top left):

  1. Bearded man sur­rounded by stars: The Logi­cian (or pos­si­bly The Magi­cian). Inter­est­ingly, this arche­type is painted in a notably dif­fer­ent visual style than the rest, almost Cubist.
  2. Old bearded man: The Patri­arch. Jon Green links this arche­type with Holy Roman Emperor Fred­er­ick II, who would also star in the forth­com­ing album Lizard.
  3. African: The Slave. I won­der if The Slave’s place­ment next to The War­rior is sig­nif­i­cant, as enslave­ment is often hand in hand with oppres­sion and war through­out his­tory. We also see a scene sug­gest­ing slav­ery on the Lizard album cover.
  4. Pro­file, lying in grass: Mother Nature.
  5. Old man wear­ing aca­d­e­mic glasses: The Observer. Sci­ence, intel­lect, ratio­nal thought.
  6. Old woman with shawl: The Old Woman
King Crimson In the Wake of Poseidon LP labels
The orig­i­nal LP labels for the UK and US edi­tions of In the Wake of Poseidon
King Crimson Cat Food single
King Crimson’s Cat Food 7″ sin­gle sleeve

In the Wake of Posei­don does devi­ate from the In the Court of the Crim­son King tem­plate in one major way: the inclu­sion of the demented pop odd­ity “Cat Food”. The atyp­i­cally brief album ver­sion was pre­ceded by an edited ver­sion released ahead of the album as a 7″ sin­gle in 1970, in a pic­ture sleeve designed by Peter Sin­field and pho­tographed by Will Christie. The design is atyp­i­cal for King Crim­son in a num­ber of ways, most par­tic­u­larly for incor­po­rat­ing pho­tog­ra­phy (oth­er­wise seen only on Red, THRAK, and The Con­struKc­tion of Light) as opposed to paint­ing or illus­tra­tion, and the use of a styl­ized type­face that has not dated well. The lyrics were printed on the back of the sleeve.


  • Sleeve design & inside paint­ing Peter Sinfield
  • Typog­ra­phy Virginia
  • Cover Paint­ing “12 Arche­types” Tammo de Jongh
  • 40th Anniver­sary Series pack­age art & design by Hugh O’Donnell



  • Thanks to com­menter Rick Roys­ton for notic­ing the vis­i­ble seams on Tammo de Jongh’s “12 Arche­types”, and unearthing info about Richard Gardner’s book The Pur­pose of Love, the first appear­ance of de Jongh’s “The 12 Faces of Humankind”.

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One thought on “King Crimson Album Art: In the Wake of Poseidon

  1. A quick response in ref­er­ence to your com­ment that the Posei­don cover “was appar­ently painted a few years prior — if that’s true, I’m curi­ous if the paint­ing was cropped or revised in any way to fit the gate­fold LP format).”

    I’d always been puz­zled by the barely dis­cernible rec­tan­gu­lar frames around each of the char­ac­ters on the cover. It seemed a bit, er, sub­stan­dard. I’d assumed that each of the orig­i­nal pic­tures had had a frame around it, and that these had been crudely elim­i­nated when pro­duc­ing the cover.

    Nearly right. Years later (!) in 1977, I came across a copy of ‘The Pur­pose of Love’ (or pos­si­bly ‘The Magic Cir­cle’) with Tammo De Jongh’s orig­i­nal pic­tures of the 12 Arche­types. The pic­tures were of the heads alone, each being signed and dated ‘1967’. (Some of the images are at

    Which led (and still leads) me to believe that Tammo de Jongh (or pos­si­bly Sin­field?) laid out the orig­i­nal pic­tures to fit the gate­fold sleeve, tweak­ing them to erase the sig­na­tures and dates, and fill­ing in the back­ground appro­pri­ately to cre­ate a sin­gle image. The residue of the rec­tan­gu­lar frames is the one anom­aly, and one won­ders whether the frames were taken out at the last minute by mod­i­fy­ing the print­ing plate. They cer­tainly look that way.

    Finally, a word of thanks. I’ve only just found your Crimso posts and am enjoy­ing them a lot. Thank you!


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