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Expressionist Portraits

Expressionist portraits reveal more than just what people look like.

Self-Portrait, Hand at the Forehead (Selbstbildnis mit der Hand an der Stirn)

Käthe Kollwitz
(German, 1867–1945)

1948. Etching and drypoint, plate: 6 1/16 x 5 1/2" (15.4 x 13.9 cm); sheet: 13 1/8 x 9 13/16" (33.3 x 24.9 cm)

Whether in images of others or herself, Kollwitz gave hands special prominence. Like faces, she viewed them as expressive vehicles, but furthermore, as symbols of human action and creativity. In this print the hand and face combine forces to convey a self-portrait rife with tension and anxiety.

Kollwitz made self-portraits throughout her career, recording her anxieties as a mother and her grief as a witness to the devastation of poverty, war, and social injustice. Kollwitz made this self-portrait as a birthday present for her husband Karl who, along with her sons, claimed that it did not bear any resemblance to the artist.

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

A representation of oneself made by oneself.