Crayon and brush lithograph with spray and scratch technique, Kn 95 III
The German Cottage Industry Exhibition of 1906 was organised by middle-class social reformers and trade unions and was the first exhibition of its kind in Germany. It took place in Unter den Linden in central Berlin, an elegant, stately avenue that was one of the most popular strolling promenades in the German Reich. The exhibition venue was chosen deliberately so that ›the elite‹ would be confronted with the catastrophic working and living conditions of cottage industry workers.
Käthe Kollwitz probably owed the commission for the poster to her cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« which is a forceful depiction of the misery of cottage industry workers in the textile industry. This poster also shows a woman gazing into space, visibly exhausted and tired out. The brightly illuminated face emphasises the dark rings under the woman’s eyes and her sunken cheeks.
As political posters were banned in Germany until 1914, the allegations that were rumoured from the 1920s and claimed that the Empress had refused to visit the exhibition as long as Käthe Kollwitz’ poster was publicly displayed, may be true. The Empress was allegedly all the more scandalised as the building in which the exhibition was held, was »the responsibility of the royal state government« as the Berliner Tageblatt newspaper remarked.
Käthe Kollwitz, Working-class Woman, 1906, charcoal on Ingres paper, NT 406