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Frau mit totem Kind (Woman with dead child)

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1949,0411.3928

  • Title (object)

    • Frau mit totem Kind (Woman with dead child)
  • Description

    Woman, sitting cross-legged, holds dead child; 7th state. 1903 Soft-ground etching with engraving, printed in black and overworked in green and gold wash on thick white wove paper

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1903
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 415 millimetres
    • Width: 480 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Signed by artist in pencil, lower left. Inscribed [illegible] in pencil, lower right. Annotated in pencil 'F6314', lower left, and 'VII', lower right and upper right.
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Germany 1880-1933', BM 1984, no. 31

    The sequence of development of the three states of the print in the BM is typical of Kollwitz's habits with her large and ambitious plates. She began with a number of carefully developed preparatory drawings (Nagel 239- 45), which, according to an undated letter to Arthur Bonus, began with a drawing she had made with the aid of a mirror of herself holding her seven-year old son Peter (Arthur Bonus, 'Das Käthe-Kollwitz Werk', Dresden 1930, p. 7; the drawing is possibly Nagel 239). One of these (apparently the drawing now in Stuttgart, Nagel 242) served as basis for the transfer to the plate. In the second state of the plate she added the texture of the laid paper by pressing a sheet of Ingres paper onto the plate prepared for a soft-ground etching, and in the third certain engraved lines. In the fourth to sixth states new layers of tone were added, again through soft-ground etching and by emery-paper pressed directly into the ground. The seventh state has more engraved lines added. Before the plate was finally completed in the eighth state, a new layer of tone was applied to darken the whole plate.
    A peculiarity of the three impressions included here is the rich and rather surprising application of gold to the background. This has nothing to do with defining corrections to the image which might then be incorporated into a subsequent state of the plate. It is entirely decorative and ornamental in function and makes a rather beautiful image out of what is in fact one of Kollwitz's rawest and most brutal compositions. The vampyrish pose of the mother feels closer to such terrifying works as Goya's painting of 'Saturn devouring his children' than to traditional mother and child iconography. The group is conceived in sculptural terms, and it is interesting to find that in 1904, when she was attending sculpture classes at the Académie Julian in Paris, she wrote in a letter: "What I should like best if I could get hold of a model quickly would be to start on a plastic group with a dead child" (quoted by Werner Timm, 'Käthe Kollwitz', Berlin 1980, opposite plate 10).

    See Prelinger, 'Käthe Kollwitz', Washington National Gallery of Art exh cat, 1992, pp.45-46

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Klipstein 1955 72.VII bibliographic details
    • Knesebeck 2002 81.VII bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (German XIXc Mounted Atlas)

  • Exhibition history

    1984/5, BM, 'The Print in Germany, 1880-1932', cat.31
    1995 Jan-March, Lancaster, Peter Scott Gallery, Käthe Kollwitz 2000 May-July, Manchester, Whitworth AG, Endings: the time of our lives
    2010/11 Nov-Jan, Cologne, Käthe Kollwitz Mus, Paris has cast spell on me

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1949

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1949,0411.3928

Woman, sitting cross-legged, holds dead child; 7th state. 1903 Soft-ground etching with engraving, printed in black and overworked in green and gold wash on thick white wove paper

Woman, sitting cross-legged, holds dead child; 7th state. 1903 Soft-ground etching with engraving, printed in black and overworked in green and gold wash on thick white wove paper

Image description

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