The Ploughmen, sheet 1 of the cycle »Peasants War«, 1907

Line etching, drypoint, aquatint, reservage, sandpaper, needle bundle and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 99 VIII b

Käthe Kollwitz, The Ploughmen, sheet 1 of the cycle »Peasants War«, 1907, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, reservage, sandpaper, needle bundle and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 99 VIII b, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The first two sheets of the »Peasants War« cycle highlight the peasants’ oppression and lack of rights that triggered the historical uprising.

In this sheet, Käthe Kolwitz illustrated this theme by depicting two peasants – probably father and son – who are forced to yoke themselves to the plough as they have no oxen.

The first few designs for this sheet that are still extant date from 1901. These early sketches were followed in 1901/1902 by two lithograph versions and in 1904 by an etched version. It was only in the winter of 1906/1907 that Kollwitz achieved the final expression of the work. In the course of the drawn-out genesis the artist developed a pictorial language that became more and more abstract and which only used simple lines to express what the story is about. The shallow angle of the ploughmen’s diagonal line which hardly rises above the horizontal ground symbolises the peasants’ humiliation and oppression. The complete lack of vertical lines as a metaphor for the dignified, erect posture of man, and the heavy sky above further emphasise the atmosphere of oppression.

STUDIES, PREPARATORY WORKS, PROOFS

Käthe Kollwitz, Ploughmen and Woman, rejected second version of the first sheet for the »Peasants War« cycle, before June 1902, crayon and brush lithograph in two colors, with spray and scratch techniques on the drawing stone, on Similijapan paper, Kn 64 II b, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Ploughmen and Woman, rejected second version of the first sheet for the »Peasants War« cycle, before June 1902, crayon and brush lithograph in two colors, with spray and scratch techniques on the drawing stone, on Similijapan paper, Kn 64 II b

Käthe Kollwitz, Ploughmen with Woman standing in the Foreground, c 1904, pencil and charcoal, NT 207, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Ploughmen with Woman standing in the Foreground, c 1904, pencil and charcoal, NT 207

Käthe Kollwitz, The Ploughmen, fourth proof of sheet 1 for the »Peasants War« cycle, before mid-January 1907, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, reservage, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 99 IV, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, The Ploughmen, fourth proof of sheet 1 for the »Peasants War« cycle, before mid-January 1907, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, reservage, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 99 IV

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