New Exhibition at The Benton features work by German artist Käthe Kollwitz

The Benton Museum of Art will feature a new exhibit of prints and etchings by German artist Käthe Kollwitz titled “Hands of Grief” beginning May 6 and running until May 22. (Amar Batra/Daily Campus)

The Benton Museum of Art will feature a new exhibit of prints and etchings by German artist Käthe Kollwitz titled “Hands of Grief” beginning May 6 and running through the summer. “Hands of Grief” features 10 etchings, lithographs and woodcuts. 

The images that will be on display were created by Kollwitz between 1897 and 1923. They force viewers to confront death, loss and mourning, the exhibit’s press release said. The 19 students in Anthropological Perspectives on Art (ANTH 3450W) researched each piece and curated the exhibit in order to answer thematic questions such as: “Why are death, mourning and grieving such taboo subjects in our society?” Or, “Why do we shy away from images of death and suffering?” As well as, “How come we too often forget about the pain of mourning?” 

Anthropology 3450W student and fourth-semester nutritional science major Shanique Stewart said that this exhibit made her realize that she never allowed herself to grieve in the past.
“I felt like if I took the time to grieve or mourn I was being weak and I needed to be strong for the people around me,” Stewart said. 

She continued to explain how one of Kollwitz’s prints portrays a man committing suicide, which caused her to confront a personal experience. 

“I found a friend in the process of trying to commit suicide, and in that moment my only concern was to get them help,” Stewart said. “Even after, I never reflected on the situation. I was just happy they we’re safe and healthy again. After the exhibition and specifically this piece, I realized

I should have grieved. Even though they we not successful in their attempt, the possibility of it happening should have been reflected on. I should have mourned because it wouldn’t have defined me as weak but made me stronger to face situations like this.”

Students in the anthropology class said the symbol of hands throughout the exhibition portrays emotion.

“For me, personally, the Kollwitz hands have been one of the most emotional parts of the exhibition, as I’ve discovered how real they are,” eighth-semester Anthropology major Lia Goncalves said. 

Goncalves recalled seeing the hands of a friend’s terminally ill father.

“You can see how severe his pain is in his hands, and he’ll put them up to his face like in the prints. It’s jarring, and it really begs you to ask, ‘Wow, what is this person going through?’”

The students hope that “Hands of Grief” will help viewers confront the way they experience and express emotions in their lives, as death and grief are often taboo in the media.

“Our exhibition is a way to share some of Kollwitz’s experiences, but hopefully it can encourage viewers to share and engage with their own,” Goncalves said. 

Stewart said she hopes people take time to reflect on their grieving experiences and think about how they feel about death and loss, as well as how they mourn and cope. 

“I hope they can… have empathy. I hope people don’t leave the exhibition feeling sad about the idea of death… I hope they come to appreciate life because after all, death is a part of life,” Stewart said.

The opening reception for “Hands of Grief” will take place on May 6th from 1p.m. to 3p.m. in the main gallery of the Benton.


Megan Krementowski is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at megan.krementowski@uconn.edu.