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Käthe Kollwitz

(1867 Königsberg – 1945 Moritzburg)

Girl Praying. Drypoint and soft-ground etching (vernis mou) printed in brown ink on yellowish wove paper. 19.4 x 14.8 cm. Signed and with the signature of the printer Otto Felsing, Berlin. (1892). Klipstein 11 II a (from b, from IV); Von dem Knesebeck 14 I d (from e, from V b). 

Käthe Kollwitz is one of the few artists for whom life and work formed a close and indissoluble symbiosis. Intimate knowledge of the life of an artist often obscures the view of his work and can even impede an objective evaluation of it. But this is not true in the case of Kollwitz, an artist pur sang and the wife of a doctor who worked among the poor in a working-class district in the north of Berlin. Throughout her life she showed a remarkable integrity and consistency in both her social endeavours and her art.

The Girl Praying is one of her earliest works and yet it already contains all the features that were to characterize her art. The portrait possesses an emotional intensity and an absolute concentration on the essential comparable to the work of Giovanni Bellini, Rogier and Rembrandt and which is a vital component of all truly great art. The result is an image of timeless beauty and gravity. The face of the girl with the almost compulsively closed eyes gleams in the darkness, her bony hands folded in prayer with a fervour that betrays physical effort.

Lehrs, Sievers and Klipstein assign the etching to the artist’s early period and date it 1892. Possibly because of the damage to the plate already visible in the early impressions the artist initially had the work printed in just a few copies. It was not until 1918 that an edition of fifty impressions was pulled. Our sheet is a rare impression before the steelfacing of the plate, before the Richter edition and before the inscription. The etching is a real masterpiece in terms of its printing technique. Kollwitz conjures up a subtle play of different textures and graphic patterns, skilfully combining different printing methods. The strong, dense cross-hatching of the background contrasts with the extraordinarily fine and sensitive linework used for the hands and face and the gentle tonal effect of the soft-ground etching (vernis mou) employed for the girl’s clothing and the foreground.

A superb impression with extremely rich burr and platetone, printed on a yellowish wove paper with full margins. Minimal aging, otherwise in perfect condition.

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