Sharpening the Scythe, Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz
Sharpening the Scythe
Back to top
This work belongs to a main work
Related works

Related external works

printing plate

Käthe Kollwitz: Beim Dengeln, Druckplatte. Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Kunstsammlung, Berlin

Käthe Kollwitz

Sharpening the Scythe, 1905

Sheet 3 of the cycle ‘Peasant War’

598 x 438 mm
297 x 297 mm
Physical Description
Line etching, drypoint, sandpaper, aquatint, and soft ground
Inventory Number
Object Number
65135 D
Acquired in 1909 as a gift from the Verbindung für historische Kunst (Association of Historical Art), commissioned by that association for its members in 1908
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

Kollwitz developed the immediacy of her compositions in several stages: by way of detail studies from nature, composition designs, but also prints she revised by hand. She sometimes etched an entire printing plate only to reject it and begin anew.

The ‘making-of’ the etching “Sharpening the Scythe” strikingly documents this process. The third image in the “Peasant War”, it represents a key turning point in the cycle’s narrative: the moment in which the protagonist decides to go the way of bloody revolt.

It took Kollwitz nearly a year to arrive at the final composition for this work. She began with an allegorical figure: Inspiration whispering the idea of an uprising into the peasant woman’s ear (inv. no. SG 3345, SG 4224, SG 4344). Then the artist gradually reduced this symbolistic composition to its psychological content. In the end all we see is the woman’s face as she pauses in the work of sharpening her scythe, like a close-up in a film. Her squinting eyes mirror her murderous resolve in all its force.

Work Data

Work Content

Similar works

  • All

More to discover


Do you have any suggestions, questions or information about this work?

Last update