… hands …

Allow one hand to caress the other, feel the fine sensations through the skin of your fingertips, their manual perfection, capacity to reach out, touch and sense the rough and smooth, warmth and cold. The power of hands to hold, give, heal, remember, receive, express feelings and ideas, inner states – hands that trace shapes and yield to shapes, strong hands that build and destroy, and skilful hands that wield the tool, the brush and pen …

Käthe Kollwitz,  'Zertretene' 1900

Käthe Kollwitz, ‘Zertretene’ 1900

Käthe Kollwitz - Mütter, Krieg, 1919

Käthe Kollwitz – Mütter, Krieg, 1919











The two drawings by Käthe Kollwitz (July 1867 – April 1945) show the incredibly gentle hands that protect – from a collection of her work in a ‘Die Blauen Bücher’ series, discovered by a friend in a second-hand bookshop in St Just, Cornwall. She posted the book to me this week. I was reminded of the plight of mothers in situations where disease and violence are, once again, out of control. And – how so often, dogmatic politics, religious or otherwise, have programmed generations to de-value the body – its wisdom, beauty and need for expression.

And there remains the question, what is being taken out of our hands? Here a wonderful video I found at the National Film Board Canada site: Faces of the Hand

And the lines from two poets whose tool of passion was the pen.

From ‘Leaves of Grass’ by Walt Whitman

… I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into new tongue ….

From ‘The Marriage between Heaven and Hell’ by William Blake

… The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom …


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16 responses to “… hands …

  1. The central figure in the second image. The woman holding two standing children absolutely tears at my heart. How incredible it must be to ba able to potray such emotion eith a pencil and paper. Amazing.


    • Tears at my heart, too, Diane. Käthe Kollwitz lived during times of extreme suffering. She expressed the futility and also the outrage of the oppressed with deep compassion. No blame, no sentimentality.


  2. With no pun intended—Touching………


  3. Is it devalued or simply taken for granted – perhaps they are one and the same thing? Wonderful artwork x


  4. I am about to head into the garden and there will be now, renewed reverence for the achievements made by days end.
    What an extraordinary video and so evocative. Thankyou so much for this wonderful post Ashen, it will serve to continue a journey of humility.
    Your words are beautiful. B


  5. The second picture speaks a lot, Ashen- of the love, protection, caring, sorrow- so many things. Thank you for the wonderful post!


  6. The link to the film did not link for me. As always your reflections focus. I have often marvelled at the versatility of the hand and its extraordinary refinement, and the correspondence between two hands for less precise requirements. You have only to attempt to play a stringed instrument to see this perfection of combination.


  7. Thanks, Philippa,
    So strange, the NFB link worked yesterday but not today, even when entering the full data. I did find this page though : http://www.artesianfilms.com/films/faces-of-the-hand/
    Some information, but the NFB link to the film also doesn’t work.
    There is another, shorter film, ‘Hand to Hand,’ on yourtube, which gives an impression:

    Maybe try the NFB link again tomorrow.
    In the meantime I befriended the Artesian Films on Facebook.


  8. I adore hands, for me, every bit as important as eyes as windows for understanding someone’s soul. I used to spend hours in the V&A in London, just drawing hands from the lifeless models there, then hands on real life models during art college. I love hands… thank you sweetie. 😀


  9. Not to forget – the spirit of Carmen:


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