In this searing self-portrait, Kollwitz homes in tightly on her face, isolating her careworn features and grave expression. Brooding introspection permeates Kollwitz's work, which is, at its core, an expression of compassion for her fellow man, especially for the suffering of women, children, and the poor in Germany during the cataclysmic years before, during, and after the two world wars. She dedicated herself to printmaking, believing that it was the medium best suited to social and political commentary. Self-portraiture was an important recurring subject in her oeuvre, and these intense, almost confrontational images are particularly powerful examples.
This woodcut and a lithograph, acquired in 2012, join an etching, already in the collection, to create a dramatic group of self-portraits from three different decades in three different mediums—each of which, in its own way, conveys the force of the artist's self-scrutiny over the course of her career.
Gallery label from New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois, June 13, 2012–January 7, 2013.