From 1908 onwards Käthe Kollwitz worked for the satirical weekly Simplicissimus by regularly sending drawings to the publishers in Munich. Working for this popular magazine of the German Reich period was considered a badge of honour and a milestone in the career of every graphic artist. Among the magazine’s contributors were artists such as Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Thomas Theodor Heine and Karl Arnold.
The publishers gave Käthe Kollwitz plenty of rope with regard to choice of topics and graphic design. The socially critical stance of Simplicissimus gave her the opportunity to address the tragedies of life in the big cities – both the blatantly obvious and the quiet, hidden ones. Her drawings for the magazine include themes such as starvation, infant mortality, cottage work for women, and unemployment and its consequences. The publishers reserved the right to add titles and caustic captions to some of her works.
After Käthe Kollwitz had started working for Simplicissimus, she no longer used literary of historical sources as inspiration for her works, as had been the case for the cycles »A Weavers’ Revolt« and »Peasants War«. There is an explanation for this decision in her autobiographical notes:
[…] When I learned about the tragic hardships of the proletariat through my husband […] I was strongly gripped by their plight […]. Unsolved problems such as prostitution and unemployment tortured and upset me, and this contributed to my commitment to depicting the common people again and again. For me, this was a safety valve and possibility to stomach this life.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Diaries, Retrospection, 1941
Käthe Kollwitz, Unemployment, 1909, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 104 VI d
Käthe Kollwitz, Warm Shelter, 1908/1909, black crayon, pen and brush with ink and sepia on olive-green paper, white highlights in the background, NT (469a)
Käthe Kollwitz, The Street, charcoal and ink on laid paper, NT 464
Käthe Kollwitz, At the Doctor’s, sheet 3 of the series »Images of Misery«, 1908/1909, black crayon on Ingres paper, NT 475
Käthe Kollwitz, Bread!, final version, 1924, crayon lithograph (transfer), Kn 208 III
Käthe Kollwitz, Pregnant Woman, drowning herself, c 1926, charcoal, NT (1114a)
Käthe Kollwitz, Under the Arch of the Bridge, 1928, charcoal and black crayon, blotted, on drawing paper, NT 1161