The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Neue Galerie, an institution dedicated to German and Austrian art also in New York, have jointly acquired a rare self-portrait by the 20th-century German printmaker Käthe Kollwitz.
The lithograph, Self Portrait en face (1904), depicts the artist at 37-years-old. Her face is rendered in varying neutral tones,. The museums were able to purchase the piece through funds from multiple donors, including ARTnews Top 200 Collectors Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, a longtime MoMA trustee and cofounder of Neue Galerie.
Kollwitz, who was born in 1867 in the Prussian city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), is widely known for her subject matter that focused on the interior lives of women. Active in the late 19th century through to the early 20th century, she gained prominence among her male counterparts that ran in German Expressionist circles. Throughout her work she focused on depicting themes related to mourning, poverty, war, and the working class.
The present work will join 34 other prints by the artist in MoMA’s collection. Self-portrait en face is one of the few works that Kollwitz created in color; after 1905, she transitioned to a colorless palette, primarily working in black and white.
The news comes as museums around the world move to fill historical gaps in their permanent collections, primarily by acquiring work by women and artists of color, whose contributions to art history have long been overlooked and underrepresented in institutional collections .
The Museum of Modern Art plans to hold a major exhibition dedicated to the Kollwitz’s work in the near future, a statement from the museum confirmed. A large-scale exhibition focused artist opened at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2019.
Christophe Cherix, the chief curator of MoMA’s drawings and prints department, described the print as “a monument in the history of printmaking and a work that speaks as much to its time as ours,” adding, “Käthe Kollwitz’s legacy looms large over the 20th and 21st centuries.”