Details — Click to read
“I am in agreement, that my art has purpose. I want to have an effect on this era, in which humans beings are so much at a loss and so in need of help.” (Entry of 4 December 1922 in Kollwitz, Käthe, Die Tagebücher, ed. Jutta Bohnke-Kollwitz, Berlin, 1989, no. 542)
The early compiler of the Kollwitz catalogue, A. Klipstein believed this work to be from 1923, but Kollwitz’s diary entry from 30 April 1922 already mentions her agreement to create this image for the anarchist writer Theodor Plivier who planned a publication to raise money to help feed the starving people in Russia. The publication was issued in June 1922. In 1923 Plivier used the image for a second publication which was sold to help to feed the poor in Berlin. Separate printings were made on higher quality paper. Consequently the woodcut exists in various ‘states’ where the artist has re-worked the image, sometimes with the title above the subject.
During 1921-23 Kollwitz created some monumental woodcuts, including the Krieg (War) series. In a letter to her friend, the novelist Romain Rolland this same year she wrote of those woodcuts, “These sheets should travel throughout the entire world and should tell all human beings comprehensively: that is how it was — we have all endured that throughout these unspeakably difficult years.” (Letter of 23 October 1922 to Remain Rolland in Kollwitz, Käthe, Briefe der Freundschaft und Begegnungen, ed. Hans Kollwitz (Munich, 1966), no. 56).
The variants of this woodcut recorded by Alexandra von dem Knesebeck in her catalogue are as follows:
1st state – 3 impressions before the title Hunger; 2nd state – 3 impressions with the word Hunger above the image to the left and with the printed signature below; 3rd state – 8 impressions recorded with the word Hunger higher and more central and the printed signature below; 4th state with the word Hunger moved lower down again this state was issued in the folded four-side Flugschrift pamphlet by Theodor Plivier in 1922 and again in 1923; 5th state – 2 impressions recorded with the word Hunger removed; 6th state – more than 20 impressions with the signature removed.
Theodor Otto Richard Plievier (Plivier, until 1933) (February 12, 1892, Berlin – March 12, 1955, Avegno, Switzerland) was a German author best known for his anti-war novel Stalingrad. He served in the German navy during the First World War and participated in the Wilhelmshaven mutiny in 1918. Under the Weimar Republic he became a social critic and author, founding the Verlag der Zwölf (Publishing House of the Twelve). He wrote critical accounts of his experiences in the navy. According to Martin Green, Plivier was in Weimar in 1922 preaching a neo-Tolstoyan gospel of peace and anarchism, much influenced by the poet Gusto Gräser (M. Green, Mountain of Truth: the counterculture begins – Ascona, 1900-1920, New England, 1986). That year he published Anarchy, advocating a “Masterless order, built up out of the moral power of free individuals” Later, in 1933, his books were burned by the Nazis and he fled first to France, then Sweden before settling in the Soviet Union. His documentary novel Stalingrad treating the horrors of the war on the Eastern front was first published in 1942.
Auguste Klipstein, Kathe Kollwitz. Verzeichnis des graphischen Werkes, Bern / New York, 1955, no.169
Alexandra von dem Knesebeck ed., Käthe Kollwitz: Werkverzeichnis der Graphik, Bern 2002, no. 182
Elizabeth Prelinger, Käthe Kollwitz, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Yale, 1992