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The Cover
August 4, 2004

Self-portrait

Author Affiliations
 

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(5):536. doi:10.1001/jama.292.5.536

Käthe Kollwitz (NEE SCHMIDT) (1867-1945), considered to be one of the greatest graphic artists of the first half of the 20th century, chose her themes from what she saw around her and daily lived: war, poverty, hunger, illness, violence, and death. Most often her subjects were women or mothers and children, but she neither romanticized nor sentimentalized them. Their likenesses were presented in mediums as humble as charcoal or pen and ink or in monumental, though stark, sculpture forms (JAMA cover, November 4, 1983). The true medium for Kollwitz, however, was the human flesh and its burden of suffering: the images, etched by suffering, including her own, are as real as suffering and death are inevitable. What is striking about them—and what, more than 50 years after the creator's death, keeps bringing viewers back to them—is their quiet statement of dignity and triumph in the face of what would seem to be a situation for despair. It is in this sense, and in her sense of solidarity with the human condition, that her works convey not pessimism, but a special sense of a profound hope: in spite of suffering and loss, there is at least a thread that binds together our common humanity.

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