I am working on a small group with the man – Karl – letting go of me, withdrawing from my arms. He lets himself sink to the floor.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Diaries, February 1940
When Käthe Kollwitz started work on this sculpture in February 1940, her husband Karl was already seriously ill. He died on 19 July in the same year. For the representation of the intimate and at the same time painful embrace, the artist chose rough, block-like shapes that correspond to the grave and weighty character of the theme. However, the execution of this group has, as a result of its small size, the character of a model.
The charcoal drawing »Self Portrait with Karl Kollwitz« from 1940, by contrast, presents a different pictorial idea of the double-portrait: There is parity and togetherness in the portrait of the artist, retreating, her face half in the shadow, and that of her husband, who, tired, supports his head in his hands. This representation still reflects a common, albeit not very optimistic perspective, while in the sculpture »Farewell« Karl has already retreated from his wife and this world.
Looking back, Käthe Kollwitz wrote about her husband:
It happened more often than not that he went through phases of strong self-doubt (…) Over the years, he gradually developed a more cheerful streak – this will have been the fruit of his untiring, caring work with his patients.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Diaries, My Husband Karl Kollwitz, 1942