- Museum number
Object: Die Pflüger (The ploughmen)
Series: Bauernkrieg (The peasants' revolt)
Two men struggle to pull a plough through the field; 6th state, before mid-January 1907. 1907
Etching, drypoint, aquatint, lift ground, sandpaper, needle bundle and soft ground with the imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, printed on copperplate paper
- Production date
Height: 315 millimetres
Width: 454 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is the first plate from Kollwitz's series 'Bauernkrieg' (The Peasants' Revolt), a cycle based on the Peasants' Revolt of 1522-5, which occurred in Germany during the Protestant Reformation. The Verbindung für historische Kunst (Society for Historical Art) commissioned the series, then published and distributed the seven plates to its members in 1908. This impression is from the final state.
Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Germany 1880-1933', BM 1984, nos.34-40 [Discussion of the series 1949,0411.3929-31, 1949,0411.3940-42, 1949,0411.3946, 1949,0411.3948]
The subject of this cycle of prints is the Peasants' Revolt of 1522-5, one of the subsidiary upheavals that attended the course of the Reformation in Germany, but which had its origins rather in the' wretched conditions of the peasantry than in Protestant fervour. In an undated letter of c. 1907 to Arthur Bonus, Kollwitz gave some valuable information about the series: "Tell Herr Stolterfoth the following: the motifs of the plates of the "Bauernkrieg" are not taken from some literary source or other. After I had made the small plate with the woman flying above, I concerned myself with the same theme further and hoped to be able to portray it once and for all so that I was finished with it. Then I read Zimmermann's "Bauernkrieg", and there he talks of "Black Anna", a peasant woman, who urged on the peasants. I then made the large sheet with the crowds of peasants breaking out. With this, I received the commission for the whole cycle. Everything followed on this already completed plate. Six plates are ready ..." ('Tagebuchblätter', 1948, p. 142).
This needs little commentary. The only plate with any connection with an identifiable historical event or character is 1949,0411.3948, 'Losbruch', in which 'Black Anna' appears. Wilhelm Zimmermann's 'Allgemeine Geschichte des grossen Bauernkrieges' was first published in 1841-2, and went through many later editions. The 'small plate' is 'Aufruhr' (Klipstein 44), which was exhibited in the Berlin Secession in 1899; the later works on the theme of the revolt, but which precede losbruch of 1903,' must be Klipstein 59-61, all of which are lithographs (see also 1949,0411.3940). The commission for the whole series came from the Verbindung für historische Kunst (Society for historical art), which published and distributed the seven plates to its members in 1908.
Technically, the plates exhibit a bewildering variety of transferred tonal textures and all were taken through a large number of states in which texture was added on top of texture before completion. Since these textures are very confusing it is worth trying to analyse them. The best starting points are the lithographs, Klipstein 82 and 83. These are experiments using different sorts of transfer paper, and since the grain produced is identical to that found in many etchings, it is reasonable to assume that these same papers were also used in her etchings over soft-grounds. Sievers identifies one, which gives a grain of a thickly textured laid paper, as Ingres paper. The other, which has an irregular mottled appearance, is called 'geleimtes Kornpapier' - sized grain paper.
Other textures vouched for by Sievers use 'Schmirgel (emery-paper) or textiles pressed directly through an etching ground. The most unusual texture however has never received any comment. It is referred to here as a 'mechanical grain' because it exhibits unmistakable rows of tiny parallel dots. Kollwitz first apparently used it in 1903 (it appears in 'Woman with dead child'), and almost invariably thereafter (the only plate of the 'Bauernkrieg' cycle in which it is not found is 'Losbruch'). Although very similar to the grain of a photogravure, it is certainly not always photographically transferred from a drawing since it is often only added in later states. It seems rather to be an early version of the 'Ben Day' dots used for creating tone in advertising, and is used by Kollwitz in two ways. Either it is found in wide expanses showing no differentiation, or it defines drawn lines that look like soft-ground lines and can easily be mistaken for them. See also 1949,0411.3934.
Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Germany 1880-1933', BM 1984, no. 34
This was one of the first images of the series that Kollwitz worked on. Two lithographs of 1902 (Klipstein 60, 61) show the same composition. In Lehrs's catalogue published in 1903 ('Die graphischen Künste' xxvi, pp. 66-7) lithographed versions of 'Pflüger' and 'Bewaffnung in einem Gewölbe', both made in 1902, as well as the etching 'Aufruhr' of 1899, are described as being for a 'Bauernkrieg' cycle. The etching of 'Losbruch' followed in 1903 (or late 1902, if the date on an impression in the Dresden Kupferstichkabinett is accurate). It must have been after receiving the commission from the Verbindung für historische Kunst that Kollwitz decided to make the entire series as etchings of uniform large size; thus 'Aufruhr' was eliminated, and the lithographed versions of 1949,0411.3940 and 1949,0411.3929 replaced by new etched versions.
An etching (Klipstein 92) which Sievers dates 1905 shows a different composition of the same subject. The preparatory drawings catalogued by Nagel (196-7, 199-212) show the difficulty she had in arriving at the final composition. The last two drawings (210-11) are in reverse to the final print. The Berlin Kupferstichkabinett possesses a complete set of all six states of this etching.
Additional lit.: F. Carey and M. Egremont, 'Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz' (Birmingham, Ikon, 2017), cat. 26.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1984/5 Sept.-Jan., BM, 'The Print in Germany 1880-1933', cat.34
2017 13 Sep-26 Nov, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2017-2018 15 Dec-11 Mar, Young Gallery, Salisbury, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2018 24 Mar-17 Jun, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2018 30 Jun-30 Sep, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2019-20, 2 September-12 January, London, BM, G90, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number