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Last updated: 11-7-13
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / German Expressionism / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists

Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945): Death and Tragedy

Kollwitz: Introductory / Kollwitz Self-Portraits / Kollwitz 2: Weavers' revolt / Kollwitz 3: Mothers
Kollwitz 4: Tragedies / Kollwitz 5: Women / Kollwitz 6: Women 2 / Kollwitz 7: Peasants' War / Kollwitz 8: Men

German Expressionism: Portraits / Lovers / Society

"Käthe Kollwitz and German Expressionism" featured over fifty works by Käthe Kollwitz plus additional works by Josef Albers,
Ernst Barlach, Rudolf Bauer, Max Beckmann, Peter Behrens, Heinrich Campendonck, Marc Chagall, Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix,
Lyonel Feininger, Conrad Felixmuller, Hans Fronius, Alfons Graber, Otto Greiner, Georg Grosz, Erich Heckel, Hannah Hoch,
Karl Hofer, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Ludwig Meidner, Edvard Munch,
Gabrielle Munter, Heinrich Nauen, Emile Nolde, Max Pechstein, Hilla von Rebay, Georges Rouault, Rudolf Schlichter,
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Siegfried Schott, Georg Tappert, Wilhelm Wagner, and others.

German Expressionist Drawings

The Russians: Chagall, Sonia Delaunay, Goncharova, Larionov, and Malevich
One of the themes to which Kollwitz returned throughout her career was death. Her husband was a physician in one of the poorest sections of Berlin who offered his services for any price his clientele could afford to pay in cash or goods. In this area, death walked freely. Although Kollwitz hated war, one of her sons was drafted and killed during the first World War and a grandson dies in the Second. After the First World War, she constructed a sculpture group showing a number of mother in a circle around their children with their arms linked to enclose them and subsequently made a woodcut on the same theme, "Seedcorn must not be destroyed." Although in many of her prints her characters struggle mightily against death, in her last series of prints, death comes almost as a long-awaited friend, bringing relief from a life whose pain has grown unbearable.
Tod in Wasser / Death in the water (Kl. 262 b; Zig. 74). Original lithograph, 1934-35. 100 signed impressions on laid paper, dated & titled. From the series Tod / Death, this lithograph, produced shortly after Hitler assumed power, shows a drowned family, perhaps a prophetic vision of Germany's future as a country about to be drowning in death. One of Kollwitz's most moving images. Image size: 483x369mm. Price: $9500.
Beim Artz / At the Doctor's (Kl. 150, Knesebeck 157 III/III). Original crayon lithograph, 1920. Edition: 30 signed and numbered impressions on Japon paper plus an edition on Bütten before text; 30 signed and numbered impressions on Japon paper plus an edition on Bütten and an unsigned edition on poster paper with text. Our impression is a signed impression on poster paper with the text trimmed off. Printed in Prussia as a large edition on thin, brown machine-made paper, occasionally signed as ours. According to a doctor who examined the image, the child is suffering from tuberculosis or "consumption," as it would then have been more commonly known. Since there was then no cure for the is highly contagious disease, the mother is hearing not simply a death sentence for her son, but probably for herself and any other children she might have. Image size: 190x253mm. Price:SOLD.
Uberfahren / Run Over (Kl. 104, Knesebeck 110 IVc; plate destroyed). Original etching and soft ground with the imprint of laid paper and Ziegler's transfer paper, before September 1910. Edition: published as the first annual premium of the "Freunde graphischer Kunst," Leipzig, 1913. There are also some separate proofs signed by the artist. Printed on thick, firm velin. In the first state, only the dead child and her parents are visible. Kollwitz then added the horrified children following their dead playmate. Image size: 248x317mm. Price: $2850.
Kindersterben / Infant mortality (Kl. 208, Zigrosser 50). Original woodcut, 1925. Published in the portfolio Proletariat, edition unknown. Ours is an unsigned impression. One of Kollwitz' most tragic prints. Image size: 356x275mm. Price: SOLD
Trauernder Mann / Mourning man (Kl. 137 VA b). Original etching, 1919. From the unsigned edition published by von der Becke. This etching is one of the offspring of Kollwitz' response to the assassinations of Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht, two radical labor leaders and advocates for extreme left-wing political activism to counter extreme right- wing politics. Kollwitz was invited by Liebknecht's family to make drawings of his corpse before the funeral. Working from the drawings, she produced an etching, with which she was not happy, and then a lithograph, which also left her dissatisfied. After seeing a woodcut by Ernst Barlach, with whom she and her husband subsequently became good friends, she produced a large woodcut Memorial for Karl Liebknecht. She then went back to the etching, retaining only the worker on the extreme left side of the plate, and printed it separately as an expression of the workers' grief at the loss of their advocate. Good impression with plate-tone in fine condition printed in purplish-black ink. Image size: 276x139mm. Price: $1450.
Tod und Frau / Death and Woman /self-portrait (Klipstein 103, Knesebeck 107 VIIIb). Original Line etching, drypoint, sandpaper, soft ground with imprint of granulated tone paper and Ziegler’s transfer paper, and roulette, 1910. 50 signed and numbered impressions (state Vd). After this edition, the plate, which was damaged in the war, was reworked: among other repairs, roulette lines upon the child’s right foot and the woman’s right upper leg; the entire background appears as if it had been cleaned; the script at left (At left: "Orig. Rad. von Käte Kollwitz") and right ("Druck v. O. Felsing, Berlin-Chlttbg.") is still partially visible. Our impressio is from a von der Becke edition between 1963/65 and 1972, in brown on thick, soft velin, with von der Becke’s Munich embossed seal. After this edition, the plate was no longer printed; the plate exists (Kunstsammlung Akademie Berlin, loan). One of Kollwitz' most frequently illustrated prints. Image size: 393x391mm. Price: SOLD.
Death, woman, and child /self-portrait (Kl. 113 xiv; Knesebeck 108 XIV/XVb). Original etching, 1910. Knesebeck describes states XIII and XIV as follows. State XIII: Richter edition of 1921--"With engraved script along the lower edge of the plate: at left: "Orig. Rad. von Käte Kollwitz"; at center: "VERLAG VON EMIL RICHTER, DRESDEN"; at right: "Druck v. O. Felsing, Berlin-Chlttbg." The edition was printed in brown on copperplate paper; it was unsigned, but occasionally had accommodatory signatures. Some proofs with Richter’s stamp of the artist’s signature and with Richter’s embossed seal. XIV: Richter’s address was removed. Published in an edition by von der Becke, circa 1931; printed in brown, on copperplate paper, most signed "Kollwitz” in lower right; XV: The remaining script removed. Editions by von der Becke as of 1946/48 with either his Berlin or Munich drystamps.

Ours lacks Richter's address, but still has the script lower left and lower right, and lacks von der Becke's drystamp, fitting Knesebeck's state XIV. The plate exists and is on loan to the Kunstsammlung Akademie Berlin. One of Kollwitz' most frequently illustrated prints. Image size: 393x391mm. Price: SOLD.
Death, woman, and child /self-portrait (Kl. 118 ixd). Original etching, 1911. 50 signed and numbered impressions (state ix), trial proofs of various states, and the unsigned edition published by von der Becke with his drystamp. A good impression on wove paper. After this edition, the plate was destroyed. One of Kollwitz' most moving presentations of the battle between life and death. Image size: 226x285mm. Price: SOLD.
Zertretne / The Downtrodden–Poor Family (Kl. 48 IV. A. 2; von Knesebeck 49 bis II. A). Original etching, drypoint, aquatint, burnisher, 1900. This is the left section of a larger plate that Kollwitz cut into two parts before May, 1901 (for the other part of the original composition, click here). It is printed on China paper mounted on copperplate paper (chine collée); the image size is 227x193mm; the embossed platemark as mounted is 233x201mm; the sheet size is 445x312mm. The image itself is rich, sharp, clear, and altogether as wonderful as the tragic scene—a father and mother mourning their dead daughter—allows. The sheet is annotated in pencil: "Prof Kathe Kollwitz, Die Zertretne," an annotation presumably made before she was removed from her professorship at the Prussian Academy by the Nazis in 1933. From the quality of the impression, this appears to be an early proof and would be rare in this condition. According to von Knesebeck, very few impressions had the embossed platemark printed. Price: SOLD.
Die Carmagnole / The Carmagnole (Kl. 49; von Knesebeck 51 ix/ix). Original etching, drypoint, aquatint, and sandpaper, 1901. Kollwitz worked on the six plates for The Weaver's' Rebellion from 1893-1898. Shortly afterward, as she worked on the plates for The Peasants' Revolt, she turned to this depiction of the possible consequences of losing oneself in righteous indignation. La Carmagnole is titled after a song sung during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. As Renate Hinz puts it in the introduction to Käthe Kollwitz: Graphics, Posters, Drawings, trans. Rita and Robert Kimber (NY: Pantheon Books, 1981), "Kollwitz shows men and women dancing frenetically around the guillotine, spurred on by the pounding of the drums. The dancers seem to be in almost a trancelike state that turns them into instruments of riot, murder, and chaos as they strike back at an oppressive social order" (p. xix). This condition, alas, would spread throughout Germany not too many years later.

The first proofs (13 are documented) were printed by the time that the piece had reached its fifth and final pre-publication state by 1917, when E. A. Seemann published the first edition. Von Knesebeck's State 9 describes the final Seemann edition of 1917, after the addition of engraved scripts at the bottom: "Käthe Kollwitz rad. [etched it], "Verlag E. A. Seemann" (E. A. Seemann published it], and after his address had been expanded to "Verlag E. A. Seemann, Leipzig," and after the printer's name top right [L. Angerer Berlin] was polished out. Von Knesebeck states the plate is lost and that there are no later reprints. Ours is a splendid impression of the final state of this uncommon work, one of Kollwitz's largest, signed and annotated by Kollwitz, on copperplate paper measuring 618x435mm (24-3/8x17-1/8 inches). Image size: 588x412mm (23-1/8x16-1/4inches). Price: SOLD.
Junges Paar / Young Couple (Kl. 73 IV. A. 2; von Knesebeck 83 v c). Original etching, sandpaper, and soft ground, c. 1904. seond Richter edition in 1921. Von der becke published editions between 1931 and 1941 (most unsigned). Posthumous editions between 1946/48 and and 1963/65 with his 3-line Berlin-Halensee seal and between 1963/65 and 1972-73 with his 2-line Munchen 22 blind stamp, of which ours is one. Printed in rich brown ink, the scene seems fairly bleak: the husbad stands with his back to his wife who is seated on the couch with a joyless expression on her face. Image size: 297x318mm. Price: $1750.
Deutschlands kinder hungern!/ Germany's children are starving! (Kl. 190 A.III.a.1). Original lithograph, 1924. One of Kollwitz' most frequently illustrated works, this was first published as a poster then without text as here. Published by Richter with his blind stamp lower right. One of Kollwitz' most important works. Image size: 405x275mm. Price: SOLD.
Deutschlands kinder hungern!/ Germany's children are starving! (Kl. 190 A.III.a.1). Original lithograph, 1924. One of Kollwitz' most frequently illustrated works, this was first published as a poster then without text as here. Ours seems to be a collotype of von Knesebeck's state A.II with von der Becke's 3-line embossed Berlin-Halensee seal (c. 1944-1946). Illustrated Zigrosser, pl. 48. This is one of Kollwitz' most important works and was reprinted before and after World War II with English and Norwegian. In 1931, Kollwitz wrote a friend and said, "Did you know that here in Berlin the government has undertaken a relief action to alleviate want? . . . Posters showing a litho from me are appearing on advertising columns: hungry children holding their bowls high." Image size: 415x275mm. Price: $1750.

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