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The Widow I (Die Witwe I)

European Art

Käthe Kollwitz explored the physical and spiritual dimensions of the human condition through printmaking, a medium that resonated for German artists eager to renew the tradition of Northern Renaissance masters such as Albrecht Dürer. After losing one of her sons in World War I, Kollwitz produced a portfolio of seven stark and emotionally raw woodcuts about the brutality of war and its consequent grief and devastation. The Volunteers depicts a line of young soldiers, including her own son Peter, marching behind the skeletal figure of Death playing a war drum. In The Widow, the harsh texture of the woodcut intensifies the visceral sensation of the woman’s anguish. With no narrative details to place her figure in a particular time or place, the work stands as a universal image of loss and mourning.

Titus Kaphar: Historically, we look at the world from one perspective. When we look even at the politics of the time, the victors get to tell that story. We don’t look at the perspective of the folks who are dying on the battlefield. We look at the perspective of the folks who won that particular war because they wrote that history. I think what it is to be in this moment right now is to know that ultimately there are many perspectives. . . . To some degree, it’s about making space to hear those other voices and in other cases correcting the record by going back in time and saying, “Wait, actually, there were some folks who were saying stuff. . .” We have to acknowledge that there were folks who existed, who resisted, who said, “No, I’m not going to fall into that same trap.” I think it behooves us to highlight those people more. These are powerful.
MEDIUM Woodcut in black ink on wove paper
  • Place Made: Germany
  • DATES 1922–1923
    DIMENSIONS image: 18 3/4 × 14 9/16 in. (47.6 × 37 cm) sheet: 26 x 18 11/16 in. (66 x 47.5 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed, "Kathe Kollowitz" in pencil, lower right margin
    INSCRIPTIONS Lower left in graphite: "88/100"; lower right in graphite: "Bl. 4 zn Folge: Krieg/Die Witwe"; lower right in pencil: "Käthe Kollwitz"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Carll H. de Silver Fund
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945). The Widow I (Die Witwe I), 1922–1923. Woodcut in black ink on wove paper, image: 18 3/4 × 14 9/16 in. (47.6 × 37 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 44.201.4. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 44.201.4_SL3.jpg)
    STATE Vb/Vd
    EDITION Edition: 88/100
    IMAGE overall, 44.201.4_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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