Although children are a recurring theme in Käthe Kollwitz’ work, it is rare that they are represented in such a carefree scene at play.
Playing marbles was one of the most popular street games around the turn of the century. It was particularly wide-spread among working-class children as, unlike roller skates, ice skates, bicycles, tricycles, pedal cars and scooters, it was almost free. The motif is also an allusion to the playing habits of the artist’s sons. In a diary entry of December 1914, Käthe Kollwitz remembered how fond her son Peter had been of playing marbles.
Unlike in the final version (NT 581), the children are portrayed and integrated into the image in a more spontaneous way. The scene in the drawing is cut by the edges, which heightens the feeling of suspense.
Käthe Kollwitz, Three Boys playing Marbles, c 1909/1910, black chalk on Dutch laid paper, NT 581