“Inspiration” Käthe Kollwitz Etching 1905



Artist:  Käthe Kollwitz (1867-Germany/1945)


Title:  Inspiration


Date:  1905 


Medium:  Etching with drypoint and aquatint on cream wove paper. 


Signature:  Two-line blind stamp of the printer (AVDBECKE MUENCHEN22) - Alexander von der Becke -  lower right margin. Printed 1946/48.


Condition:  The etching is in excellent condition with a strong impression. 


Size: Plate size: 564x297mm. Full conservation framing.  


Item No:  ART 020


NotesOne of the most powerful and technically impressive of Kollwitz’s images from the Peasant War series of 1902/08, with dramatic command of light and shadow.  


Kollwitz's second major cycle of works - her first was The Weavers’ Revolt - was the Peasant War in which she explored the mistreatment of the oppressed, their growing resentment and outrage, their attempts to right the wrongs done them, and their ultimate destruction. The Peasant War was a violent revolution which took place in Southern Germany in the early years of the Reformation, beginning in 1525; peasants who had been treated as slaves took arms against feudal lords and the church.


The series occupied Kollwitz from 1902 to 1908.


When completed, the Peasant War consisted of seven pieces in etching, drypoint, aquatint, and soft ground: Plowing, Raped, Sharpening the Scythe, Arming in the Vault, Outbreak, After the Battle  and The Prisoners. In addition to the seven etchings in the series, she also executed two additional works, Revolt and Inspiration that existed parallel to the series. In all, the works were technically far more impressive than those of The Weavers, owing to their greater size and dramatic command of light and shadow. Scholars consider they are Kollwitz's highest achievements as an etcher and one of the most powerful graphic series in the history of Western Art. 

Art dealer Alexander von der Becke took over the inventory of Käthe Kollwitz's unsold prints as well as her printing plates after the bankruptcy of Galerie Emil Richter, Dresden, 

which had published Kollwitz's prints from about 1910 to 1930. Unlike Richter, von der Becke was unable to secure exclusive rights to publish Kollwitz's future prints, so with very few exceptions, such as her major series Death (executed 1934–37), published reprints of her earlier work in largely unsigned editions. Under the Nazi regime, he suffered from declining sales, as Kollwitz experienced increasing difficulty publishing and exhibiting her work. In 1941 the Gestapo closed his business and confiscated his stock. Re-established in 1946, he subsequently issued posthumous reprints of the thirty Kollwitz etching plates that survived the war. 


This impression is from von der Becke’s 1946/48 printing of Inspiration, described by Knesbeck as having “a row of nearly vertical lines at the middle section of the lower plate extending into the bevelling. Printed in brown.”  At bottom right is the printer’s dry stamp AVDBECKE  MUENCHEN22.


References: Klipstein 91 ix/ix, Knesbeck 86Xb

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