In LECTURES I WILL NEVER GIVE (Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures) Mary Ruefle writes:
Once I wanted to write a lecture on two self-portraits by the German artist Käthe Kollowitz, (…) single self-portraits are not half as interesting as two self-portraits by the same artist painted thirty or forty years apart.
When Käthe painted herself as a young woman (…) the portrait is composed as if to say, “I am a sensitive, curious, intelligent being, and in my search for knowledge and experience I will learn all there is to know about the world around me – here I give you my pledge placing my hand on this open book”
Thirty years later the drawing says, “All that was to be known was inside me and bit by bit it did its work and made this tormented and exhausted head.” Her face has become the open book.
But that – Ruefle says in the end of her text – is a lecture that has to be lived.
For my own part I must hasten to add that the above pictures are not necessarily the pictures Ruefle had in mind when she wrote her text, there are no photos in Ruefle’s book. But for me these two self-portraits function well as visual guidance to the ideas Ruefle are presenting.
If you want to know more about Käthe Kollowitz and her self-portraits, you can click here