Unemployment, 1909

Line etching, drypoint, aquatint, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 104 VId

Käthe Kollwitz, Unemployment, 1909, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 104 VI d, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

This etching shows a woman in childbed with her sleeping infant. At the footboard of the bed there are two older children, also asleep. In the foreground on the left, the father supports his head staring straight ahead in despair. The woman also gazes into space with tired eyes. This work is today the artist’s best-known representation of unemployment as the result of industrialisation.

A preparatory drawing for this sheet was published in Simplicissimus on 19 July 1909.

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The longer [I examine the situation] the more I understand the typical plight of working-class families. Once the man starts drinking or becomes ill and unemployed, it always leads to the same results. He either hangs round his family’s neck like a millstone […] or he takes his own life.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Diaries, 19 September 1908

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