Whetting the Scythe (Beim Dengein)
Kathe Kollwitz (German, 1867 – 1945)
MediumEtching, engraving, softground
DimensionsSheet : 15 1/8 x 17 1/8 in. (38.42 x 43.5 cm)
Mat : 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.96 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelThroughout her life, Käthe Kollwitz used her art to comment on issues of social oppression and economic inequality in German society. This image belongs to a series of seven prints called The Peasants’ War that Kollwitz created between 1903 and 1908. The prints were inspired by a historical rebellion that occurred in parts of Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 1524-25, when hundreds of thousands of poor farmers rose up to protest the harsh conditions imposed on them by the aristocracy. The rebellion was brutally suppressed, but memories of it persisted and were revived in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Friedrich Engels and other left-wing activists who saw it as an important example of popular resistance against exploitation and injustice. Whetting the Scythe is the third image in the Peasants' War series. It depicts an old woman sharpening a scythe blade so that it can be used as a weapon in the upcoming revolt.