Peasant War, Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz
Peasant War
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This work consists of multiple parts

Käthe Kollwitz

Peasant War, 1907

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Object Number
65134-65140 D
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About the Work

In 1525, during the Reformation, rebellions erupted all over Saxony, Thuringia, Southern Germany, Tirol, and Switzerland. The rural population rose up against the aristocracy to protest economic and social hardship, but also for religious reasons. In her cycle of the same title, Kollwitz portrayed this “Peasant War” as an existential struggle for liberty—an interpretation also widespread in socialist circles.

She staged the revolts’ causes, course of events, and collapse in seven etchings. Despite the differing formats and colour schemes, the images are closely interrelated: more dramatic compositions follow calmer ones; descending movements ascending ones. The artist gave the human protagonists a highly expressive body language; she jammed them into a horizontal format side by side or stacked them one above the other. Rich textures created with the aid of sandpaper or the imprint of cloth or paper provide an abstract background space that subtly undermines the realism of the individual scenes.

In 1908, the cycle—begun seven years earlier—was finished. The result was a complex, technically superb printmaking series with a claim to the status of a history painting. To this day it accounts for Kollwitz’s success in the printmaking medium.

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