The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
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.
Southgate MT. Self-portrait. JAMA. 2004;292(5):536. doi:10.1001/jama.292.5.536
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