Kaethe Kollwitz 1867-1945
Woodcut
18 x 13 inches
WSU Art Department Purchase, 1940
Photograph: Daniel Sperry

Inspired by the depth of the human condition, Käthe Kollwitz explored the beauty in pain and suffering through figurative painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Growing up in Germany, as an early adult Kollwitz went to art school in Berlin, where she met her husband who was going to medical school at the time. Through their partnership, Kollwitz evolved as an artist through her exposure to working class people that received medical treatment through her husband’s practice, whom she started drawing portraits of. Kollwitz was also very influenced by the horrors of WWI, as she was affected by the loss of her son in the war. After this loss, Kollwitz’s work centered around themes of emotional compassion and mourning.

The Widow, a woodcut print made in 1922, shows a woman in agony as she holds herself as if trying to hold onto her deceased lover. The piece is emotionally provocative as well as formally elegant yet agitated, showing the widow in pain and distress, while also laid out in a careful, thoughtful composition.  

Text by Emily Lane Borden