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Kathe Kollwitz


Kathe Kollwitz
  • Original Title: Not
  • Date: 1893 - 1897
  • Style: Expressionism
  • Series: A Weavers' Revolt
  • Genre: genre painting
  • Media: lithography, paper
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Kollwitz responded to Gerhart Hauptmann's play on the 1844 German weavers' revolt with her own series, The Weavers' Rebellion, which showcases her admiration for the working class. Martha Kearns, her biographer, points out that Kollwitz's series is remarkable for its portrayal of the working class taking action and suffering the consequences of their rebellion, with women playing active roles in the conflict. Significantly, Kollwitz's series begins with Misery, a print of a child's death from poverty, highlighting that her response to the weavers' revolt is rooted in the deprivations of poverty.

The Misery print is a somber depiction of hopelessness and grief. The focus of the print is the child's deathbed, where his sorrowful mother kneels beside him with her head in her hands. The child is tiny, almost skeletal, and surrounded by a heavenly bright light that contrasts with the room's gloom. This contrast highlights the child's innocence as a victim of poverty, a consequence of the oppressive working conditions that prevented survival. The room is dark, with only the light from the child illuminating it. A large loom dominates the scene, and the father, holding a sibling, looks down with downcast eyes, while the sibling gazes directly at the loom, symbolizing the source of the family's misery.

Kollwitz struggled with her lack of extensive etching training when she started the series. She initially used lithography to make the first three prints before switching to etchings, which she perfected with a combination of drypoint, acquatint, tusche wash, and soft ground processes. The series was unusual for combining different mediums. Kollwitz's work was displayed at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in 1898, where it would have won the gold medal prize if Emperor Wilhelm II had not dismissed it as "gutter art." Nonetheless, Kollwitz went on to win the gold medal for the series the following year.

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