Scene from »Germinal«, 1893

Line etching, drypoint, sandpaper, Kn 19 III b

Scene from »Germinal«, 1893, line etching, drypoint, sandpaper, Kn 19 III b, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

In this work Käthe Kollwitz depicted a scene from Émile Zola’s 1885 novel »Germinal«. This novel with its description of a fictitious miners’ revolt that was brutally crushed is among his best-known works in Germany. No other work before Gerhart Hauptmann’s drama »The Weavers« had such a profound impact on the German Naturalist movement in literature. There are even claims that Hauptmann’s drama was inspired by this novel. It is, however, an accepted fact that the play was judged against Zola’s novel more than against any other work. Konrad Schmidt, Käthe Kollwitz’ brother, was inspired by Zola’s work to join the Social Democratic Party.

This 1893 etching was preceded by a five-year period of preparatory drawings. Irrespective of the novel’s socio-critical theme, this scene depicts a drama of jealousy that is not central to the narrative. It is about two men fighting over a young woman. The latter is shown anxiously looking on from the door. Thematically, the scene is part of a number of works dealing with gender-related issues which the artist explored in the early 1890s.

»Germinal« fascinated the artist so much that she considered devoting a print cycle to the novel, which did not, however, progress beyond a couple of sheets. After visiting the premiere of Hauptmann’s drama »The Weavers« she interrupted work on the »Germinal« project to create her first graphic cycle – »A Weavers’ Revolt«.

STUDIES, PREPARATORY WORKS

Käthe Kollwitz, detail study for »Scene from Germinal«, 1892/93, charcoal, NT (82a), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, detail study for »Scene from Germinal«, 1892/93, charcoal, NT (82a)

Käthe Kollwitz, Tavern in Königsberg, 1893, pen and black ink, grey wash, NT (52a), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Tavern in Königsberg, 1893, pen and black ink, grey wash, NT (52a)

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