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German Expressionism

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  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Widow I (Die Witwe I) (front cover) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
    The Widow I (Die Witwe I) (front...
    (1921-22, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Widow I (Die Witwe I) (front cover) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Sacrifice (Das Opfer) (plate 1) from War (Krieg). (1922, published 1923)
    The Sacrifice (Das Opfer) (plate 1)...
    (1922, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Sacrifice (Das Opfer) (plate 1) from War (Krieg). (1922, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Volunteers (Die Freiwilligen) (plate 2) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
    The Volunteers (Die Freiwilligen)...
    (1921-22, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Volunteers (Die Freiwilligen) (plate 2) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Parents (Die Eltern) (plate 3) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
    The Parents (Die Eltern) (plate 3)...
    (1921-22, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Parents (Die Eltern) (plate 3) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Widow I (Die Witwe I) (plate 4) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
    The Widow I (Die Witwe I) (plate 4)...
    (1921-22, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Widow I (Die Witwe I) (plate 4) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Widow II (Die Witwe II) (plate 5) from War (Krieg). (1922, published 1923)
    The Widow II (Die Witwe II) (plate 5)...
    (1922, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Widow II (Die Witwe II) (plate 5) from War (Krieg). (1922, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The Mothers (Die Mütter) (plate 6) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
    The Mothers (Die Mütter) (plate...
    (1921-22, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The Mothers (Die Mütter) (plate 6) from War (Krieg). (1921-22, published 1923)
  • Käthe Kollwitz. The People (Das Volk) (plate 7) from War (Krieg). (1922, published 1923)
    The People (Das Volk) (plate 7)...
    (1922, published 1923)
    Käthe Kollwitz. The People (Das Volk) (plate 7) from War (Krieg). (1922, published 1923)

About the portfolio

Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

In 1919, Käthe Kollwitz began work on Krieg (War), her response to the tragedies endured during what she called those "unspeakably difficult years" of World War I and its aftermath. The portfolio's seven woodcuts focus on the sorrows of those left behind—mothers, widows, and children. Kollwitz had struggled to find the appropriate means of expression until she saw an exhibition of Ernst Barlach's woodcuts in 1920. Revising each print through as many as nine preparatory drawings and states, Kollwitz radically simplified the compositions. The large-format, stark black-and-white woodcuts feature women left to face their grief and fears alone, with their partners, or with each other.

Only one print, Die Freiwilligen (The volunteers), shows the combatants. In it, Kollwitz's younger son, Peter, takes his place next to Death, who leads the troops in an ecstatic procession to war. Peter was killed in action just two months later. Kollwitz wanted these works to be widely viewed. By eliminating references to a specific time or place, she created universally legible indictments of the real sacrifices demanded in exchange for abstract concepts of honor and glory. The prints were exhibited in 1924 at the newly founded International Anti-War Museum in Berlin.

Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945)

The Portfolio

War (Krieg)

Date:
(1923, prints executed 1921-22)
Medium:
Portfolio of seven woodcuts and one woodcut cover
Dimensions:
composition: see child records; sheet (each approx.): 18 3/4 x 25 15/16" (47.6 x 65.9 cm)
Paper:
Cream, smooth, laid Japan (except portfolio cover).
Publisher:
Emil Richter, Dresden
Printer:
probably Fritz Voigt, Berlin
Edition:
Edition A (issued in portfolio): 100 hand-printed, numbered and signed on imperial Japan paper [this ex.]; Edition B: 100 hand-printed, numbered and signed on wove paper; Edition C, published in 1924: 200 printed from an electrotype plate on imitation japan paper
Credit Line:
Gift of the Arnhold Family in memory of Sigrid Edwards
Copyright:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Reference:
Wagner 157-163. Klipstein 177-183. Knesebeck 173-6, 178-9, 190. Rifkind 1606.1-7.
MoMA Number:
470.1992.1-8
Themes:
Death, Postwar Politics, War
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