Charcoal, blotted, on Ingres paper, NT 616
In late 1908 Käthe Kollwitz’ elder son Hans came down with a life-threatening diphtheria infection. A letter by the artist written to her friend Beate Bonus-Jeep reveals to what extent the parents feared for his life:
You know, Jeep, I have had worries about the children, but this naked fear that grips you when you feel, know, that within the next few minutes this young life will be cut short and the child will be gone – this has been the most horrible feeling for me, and it is something
I won’t get over so quickly.«
Käthe Kollwitz, from: Beate Bonus-Jeep, 60 Years of Friendship
This spontaneous sketch on the theme of »Farewell« is characterised by a high degree of artistic verve. The mother clings to her son, who is being drawn up by death, the latter being only faintly indicated. This charcoal drawing is from the estate of Käthe Kollwitz. The importance of this work for the artist is revealed by a hand-written note on the bottom edge: »Farewell, property of Mrs Kollwitz«. The slash at the bottom indicates what was to be left out from the reproduction in the facsimile portfolio.
While this drawing as well as the charcoal drawing NT 596 are direct preparatory works for the etching »Death, Woman and Child« (Kn 108), sheet NT 609 shows a different pictorial idea: The woman is depicted in a crouching position, her back turned towards the observer. She holds her face gently to the boy’s head, supporting it with her right hand. Behind the group, Death stands straddle-legged, gripping the boy’s body, about to tear him from his mother. A facsimile version of this drawing was also added to the »Farewell and Death« portfolio.
Käthe Kollwitz, Farewell, 1910, charcoal, blotted, on green-grey Ingres paper, NT 596
Käthe Kollwitz, Death, Woman and Child, 1910, black crayon, blotted, on brownish paper, NT 609