Visual research: Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) ‘Gretchen drawings in ink’

After my previous research on ‘Brot! (Bread)’ from Kathe Kollwitz (see post from 17 Nov) I wanted to do a more thorough visual research on her ink drawings.  I selected three of them from the year 1889 (her early years before she went deeper into printmaking). These drawings depict the theme from J.W. Goethe ‘Faust’ well known ‘Gretchen’ scene. They are influenced by the Symbolism movement.

Kollwitz is using line marks, scribbled and jabbing contours and outlines especially for the woman on her knees in the front. She also made hatched longer lines across the body of the woman. Some lines are closer together some more apart. This provides different tones to indicate shadow and form. Remarkable the strong and bold lines for the hands expressing ‘helplessness, anxiety and pleading’. These line marks are embedded in dark and middle toned ink washes, indicating depth but also shadow and anxiety. A big contrasting element. The kneeling figure (‘Virgin of Sorrow’) is in drawing 2) and 3) only shown through dark black masses, in 2) with a scribbled outline, in 3) less dark and with smoother line marks.

In the context of value gradations, toning in blocks, and line marking, I can see how flexible Kollwitz is using the media and tools. Most of the drawing is done with ink washes, like a painting. The expression of the figures are getting through her line marks. This is contrasting as well as balancing. It keeps my focus moving back and force over the drawn areas. The key expression of the drawings is ‘pleading’. I can feel the sorrow of the woman in front. These drawings are engaging without having too many details drawn. The atmosphere is dark and full of sorrow and grief and with a mystic and spirtual notion (like some other art works from Symbolism).

Learnings for my work

With strong contrast in tone and two techniques applied (line marks, washes) I would like to experiment with this approach. During exercise 3, my first run, I could already experiment with a different tool (flat marks with tissue).


Stefan513593 - Visual research - Kathe Kollwitz

Stefan513593 – Visual research – log – Kathe Kollwitz



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