The Downtrodden, 1901

Line etching, drypoint, aquatint and burnisher, Kn 49

Käthe Kollwitz, The Downtrodden, 1901, line etching, drypoint, aquatint and burnisher, Kn 49, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

In this sheet, Käthe Kollwitz once again took up the motif of the planned final sheet for the »Weavers« cycle – »From many wounds you bleed, oh people«. The central scene of the tripartite composition »The Downtrodden« is identical to the planned final sheet, except for the pinioned women on the left and right, who have been replaced by two scenes that address the catastrophic situation of the proletariat.

The plate was divided by the artist. The motif »Poor Family« – the left hand part of the plate – was used for several editions of prints. The seated mother cradles the head of her lifeless child in her lap. Her husband, averting his eyes, hands her a rope as a symbol of suicide – the only way out of their misery.

The right-hand scene addresses the only alternative to suicide for many proletarian women – prostitution, which Kollwitz did not present as something immoral or depraved. The desperate and denuded woman, tied to a pole, highlights the misery and deprivation that has forced her into prostitution.

Käthe Kollwitz, The Downtrodden – Poor Family, left scene of the composition originally in three sections, 1901, line etching, drypoint, aquatint and burnisher, Kn 49bis II A b Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, The Downtrodden – Poor Family, left scene of the composition originally in three sections, 1901, line etching, drypoint, aquatint and burnisher, Kn 49bis II A b

Käthe Kollwitz, The Downtrodden – Corpse and Nude Woman at a Post, Middle and right scenes of the composition originally in three sections, 1901, line etching, drypoint, aquatint and burnisher, Kn 49ter a Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, The Downtrodden – Corpse and Nude Woman at a Post, Middle and right scenes of the composition originally in three sections, 1901, line etching, drypoint, aquatint and burnisher, Kn 49ter a

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