Käthe Kollwitz. Young Girl in the Lap of Death (Tod hält Mädchen im Schoß) from the series Death (Tod). 1934

Käthe Kollwitz Young Girl in the Lap of Death (Tod hält Mädchen im Schoß) from the series Death (Tod) 1934

  • Not on view

Death was one of the most persistent themes in Käthe Kollwitz's work. It continued to exert an inexorable pull on the artist near the end of her life and served as the subject of this, her final print cycle. Ten years before completing the portfolio, Kollwitz had noted in her diary, "I must do the prints on Death. Must, must, must!" She chose lithography, her preferred technique for creating emotionally powerful images with universal resonance, as the medium, but struggled to shape her ideas, only executing the first five prints in 1934. She added three more lithographs to the series in 1937.

These eight images (five of which are in the Museum's collection) show Death visiting the most vulnerable members of society, the impoverished women and children whose plight Kollwitz had repeatedly chronicled in her long career of socially engaged printmaking. Set against a blank background free of any markers of time or place, Death comes, sometimes violently—as in Tod greift in eine Kinderschar (Death grabbing at a group of children)—and sometimes as a welcome friend. In the final print, Ruf des Todes (Call of Death), the artist herself finally yields to the temptations that had lured so many before her. Here, as in the opening print of a mother who has lost all hope, Death need only extend its hand.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.
composition (irreg.): 16 13/16 x 14 13/16" (42.7 x 37.7 cm); sheet (irreg.): 29 7/8 x 20 15/16" (75.9 x 53.2 cm)
Alexander von der Becke, Verlag des graphischen Werkes von Käthe Kollwitz, Berlin
proof before the edition of 100
Object number
© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Death (Tod)
Drawings and Prints

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].