The Reader
  • Richard Müller
  • Tschirnitz / Bohemia 1874 -1954 Dresden
  • The Reader, 1917
  • Black chalk and pencil, on creme paper
  • signed on the lower right: Käthe Kollwitz
  • 393 × 496 mm
Sale 19 Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart 1954, lot 1275
Collection Moses and Ida Soyer, New York 1959
The Monclair Art Museum, New Jersey 1974-2012
Herbert Bittner: Käthe Kollwitz Drawings, New York 1959, no. 69, p. 26 (ill.)
Otto Nagel: Käthe Kollwitz - Die Handzeichnungen, Berlin 1972, no. 737, p. 334, ill. p. 335

In 1917, Käthe Kollwitz received a request from her friend Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) to design the dust-jacket for his new book The Poor. This socio-critical novel fully corresponded with her own mindset; thus, with our powerful drawing, Kollwitz created an intense first impression of the tragicomic content. A contemplative young man sits at a desk, musing over an open book and supporting his head in both hands, with his fist in a ball. The fleeting study of a hand held up flatly against a head on the left side of the sheet anticipates the final version of the rarely preserved book jacket (Fig.1).

The novel The Poor is a direct continuation of the famous book The Loyal Subject from 1914, but this time from the perspective of the proletariat. Heinrich Mann describes the greed of the same protagonist Heßling, who continuously increases his prosperity through lying and deception and the ruthless exploitation of workers, shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Käthe Kollwitz’s design probably represents the antagonist Karl Baldrich, a young worker who wants to be a lawyer in order to enforce his rights against the major industrialist himself.