Raped, sheet 2 of the cycle »Peasants War«, 1907/1908

Line etching, drypoint, sandpaper, reservage and soft ground with imprint of fabric and Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 101 V a

Käthe Kollwitz, Raped, sheet 2 of the cycle »Peasants War«, 1907/1908, line etching, drypoint, sandpaper, reservage and soft ground with imprint of fabric and Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 101 V a, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The second stage in the pictorial narrative serves to illustrate the need for a change in the peasants’ situation by intensifying the emotional aspect. The peasants lack any rights and protection and are thus helpless in the face of despotism. This is illustrated in the second sheet in a drastic manner. It shows a raped peasant woman lying in her ravaged garden. Her little daughter can be seen looking at her murdered mother across the garden fence. A striking feature in this work, the theme of which was rarely dealt with in art around 1900, is the unsparingly stark representation of the victim and the naturalistic depiction of the garden. The trampled plants are a symbol of the woman’s destroyed life.

All life has ground to a halt. The feudal landowners rob the peasants and their wives of human dignity and leave behind them a trail of death and devastation. This is bound to cause outrage in the observer. It is impressive that Käthe Kollwitz had the courage and self-confidence as a woman in the conservative Reich to express such a theme in this manner.

An early composition sketch that has only resurfaced recently, the drawing NT (443a), treats the theme in a much more narrational fashion. It shows the two daughters standing in front of the murdered peasant woman. The older one looks at the interior of the house which can be seen through a smashed door hanging obliquely from its hinges. The younger girl anxiously presses her body against her sister while looking at her mother in horror.

As in the »Ploughmen«, Käthe Kollwitz focussed on the main figure in the final version and moved her into the centre of the image.

CONCEPT SKETCH

Käthe Kollwitz, Assaulted, concept sketch for »Raped«, c 1901/1902, pencil on laid paper, NT (443a), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Assaulted, concept sketch for »Raped«, c 1901/1902, pencil on laid paper, NT (443a)

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