Art of the Day

16 Mar


The Lovers. by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945). Plaster, 1913. Currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Notes from

Over the years there has been much speculation about the subject and title of this sculpture. It has been called The Lovers, Mother and Child, Pietà, and recent research suggests that it may be related to Kollwitz’s later lithograph Death Holds a Girl in His Lap. Whatever the title, the depth of the artist’s emotions and sense of intimacy-whether pertaining to love or loss-are palpable. Kollwitz was profoundly affected by the death of her son in the first world war, and later by the death of her husband; eros and death are frequently conflated in her works.

My comments:

I absolutely loved this sculpture because it looked completely different depending on which side you looked at it, as you can see from the photographs I took above. I also liked it because it has a possibility for two interpretations that are, in some ways, dramatically different, perhaps even polar opposites from each other. On one hand, Kollwitz made this sculpture over thirty years before her own death, which eliminates the possibility that she was reflecting on the end of her life and her own mortality–unless, of course, she only thought she was going to die soon and inaccurately estimated how long she had to live. But since her son and husband had just died, their deaths may have prompted her to think about the theme of death in general. The fact that she chose to show two lovers (I’ll assume that’s what they are since that is the current title of the sculpture and they look like lovers to me) who appear to be in some kind of mourning may reflected her desire for someone to grieve with, now that two of the most important men in her life are both gone. I love this sculpture becuase it appears that the woman sitting in the man’s lap is lost in grief, almost unaware of the person she is sitting with. At the same time, the man is absorbed in her, trying to hold her so tightly in his arms, to the point where his force pushes her right arm to protude in a very unnatural, distorted and strange way. It’s interesting that the caption mentions that “eros and death are frequently conflated” in Kollwitz’s art, because I don’t really see any eros, which refers to unmitigated desire, in this sculpture. Yes, these are lovers, and yes, the guy seems very focused on the girl, but the love that is expressed doesn’t really seem focused on strongly on sexual desire as the use of the term eros would suggest to me. In the end, I think this sculpture depicts both love and loss at the same time, rather than one or the other. I would go further and say it depicts loss of love.


One Response to “Art of the Day”

  1. tara March 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    if someone you really loved had died and you had one last chance to bring them back from the dead and kiss them, what would the kiss be like? Just the thought of it makes me cry.

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