The Museum of Modern Art and the Neue Galerie jointly acquire Käthe Kollwitz’s self-portrait before the MoMA…
The Museum of Modern Art and the Neue Galerie New York have jointly
acquired the Self-portrait in front (1904) by Käthe Kollwitz, one of the most extraordinary self-portraits made in
the first years of the 20th century. The acquisition was supported at MoMA by Abby Aldrich
Rockefeller Endowment for Prints and a gift from Jack Shear, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Alice and
Tom Tisch (in honor of Marlene Hess), Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Maud I. Welles,
Ronnie Heyman (in honor of Marlene Hess), and Carol and Morton Rapp; and to the Neue Galerie by a donation
by Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.
Christophe Cherix, Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints at MoMA’s Robert Lehman Foundation, said: “Käthe
Kollwitz’s legacy looms large during the 20th and 21st centuries. Executed in 1904, early artist
remarkable life, Autoportrait en face is both a monument to the history of engraving and a work that
speaks as much of his time as of ours. We are delighted to have this exemplary work enter the MoMA collection,
and delighted to present it to the public at MoMA this spring, where it is installed in our newly renovated fifth-floor collection galleries.
Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945) was born in the Prussian town of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia).
She first trained as a painter, but quickly turned to drawing and printmaking, which she considered the
most effective mediums for social criticism. (She also worked occasionally in sculpture.) Active in Germany
from the 1890s to the 1930s, a period marked by the first wave of feminism, the social evils provoked
by industrialization and the political upheavals of the two world wars – Kollwitz used his work to confront
the injustices of her time from a woman’s point of view, and to affirm the female point of view as
necessary and powerful agent of change. With motherhood and the working class, the self-portrait
was an important recurring theme in his work; she used it as a vital form of self-affirmation and self-interrogation.
Kollwitz was 37 when she created Self-portrait in front, and, against all odds for a female artist
and engraver, she had become one of Germany’s most acclaimed artists, renowned for her
intricately intricate, extraordinarily textured prints and for the deep compassion with which she
approached his subjects. She underlined her artistic ambitions in this self-portrait by taking a virtuoso
approach to color engraving and presenting herself in a powerfully assertive frontal pose. Only 12
the prints of this lithograph are known and they were created in a few different color variations; this
example is remarkable for the depth and subtlety of its hues. The artist used a red-brown pencil to model
the features of her face, a dark blue wash to dramatically frame her head and an ocher shade to
give a subtle and radiant depth. Joining 34 other prints by Kollwitz in the MoMA collection, Self-Portrait in
face is one of the few works that Kollwitz created in color; after 1905, she restricted her palette to black
As part of the rotation of the spring collections which will end on May 28, 2022, the work is now visible in
gallery 504, alongside fellow German Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portrait with Two Flowers in
His raised left hand (1907). Another rare and iconic self-portrait of an early female artist
modern period, the Modersohn-Becker painting was also jointly acquired by the MoMA and the Neue Galerie,
Additionally, MoMA plans to hold and present a major exhibition of Kollwitz’s work in the future, and
will publish an accompanying scientific catalogue.