Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), The Widow I, 1923, woodcut, 18 1/8 x 12 13/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Donald Goodwall.
Today, July 8, is Käthe Kollwitz’s birthdate. Käthe Kollwitz created this tragic portrait in 1923 in response to the “unspeakably difficult years” of World War I and its aftermath. The titular Widow weeps, pantomiming an embrace of a husband who will never return. The contours of her torso also indicate the near complete gestation of a child who will never know its father. The powerful style of Kollwitz is influenced by the simplified, brutal woodcuts of Ernst Barlach, a contemporary printmaker and sculptor.
Deep sorrow is not Kollwitz’ only powerful motif, for within her oeuvre we find a number of joyful interactions between mothers and children, as seen in the comparative image shown here.