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German Expressionism

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Käthe Kollwitz

German, 1867–1945

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Printmaker, draftsman, sculptor. Trained initially as a painter, but by 1890 turned to printmaking as means for social criticism. Married to a physician to proletarian families in Berlin, felt deep admiration for working class and dedicated her art to the poor and oppressed, especially women and children. Devastated by the death of her younger son, Peter, in combat in 1914, embraced pacifism and concentrated increasingly on themes of sacrifice and mourning. Stylistically indebted to Naturalism, but eventually began simplifying compositions, to emphasize emotion.

Made a total of 275 prints, nearly all black and white. Focused on etching until about 1911, then turned more to lithography, capitalizing on its directness and immediacy, especially for posters supporting postwar humanitarian causes. Inspired by Ernst Barlach, in 1920 adopted woodcut technique, which led to greater simplification without losing figurative legibility, as demonstrated in portfolio War, published in 1924. Wanted prints to be widely accessible, both in content and price, but was encouraged by publishers Emil Richter and, later, Alexander von der Becke, to create special editions for elite market as well.

Became first woman elected to Prussian Academy of Arts in 1919; expelled by Nazis, who prohibited her from exhibiting but nevertheless appropriated her images for own propaganda. During World War II Berlin apartment destroyed, with great loss of work. Died two weeks before German surrender.

Selected Bibliography

Knesebeck, Alexandra von dem. Käthe Kollwitz: Werkverzeichnis der Graphik. Band I & II. Bern: Kornfeld, 2002.

Prelinger, Elizabeth, ed. Käthe Kollwitz. Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1992.

Rix, Brenda D., and Jay A. Clarke. Käthe Kollwitz: The Art of Compassion. Exh. cat. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2003.

Heather Hess

Works by Käthe Kollwitz

  • Not on view Käthe Kollwitz. March of the Weavers (Weberzug) from the series Weaver's Revolt (Ein Weberaufstand). (1893-1897, published c. 1931)
    Käthe Kollwitz
    March of the Weavers (Weberzug) from the...
    (1893-1897, published c. 1931)
    Käthe Kollwitz. March of the Weavers (Weberzug) from the series Weaver's Revolt (Ein Weberaufstand). (1893-1897, published c. 1931)
  • Not on view Käthe Kollwitz. Death, Woman, and Child (Tod, Frau und Kind). (1910, printed c. 1931 or after)
    Käthe Kollwitz
    Death, Woman, and Child (Tod, Frau und Kind)
    (1910, printed c. 1931 or after)
    Käthe Kollwitz. Death, Woman, and Child (Tod, Frau und Kind). (1910, printed c. 1931 or after)
  • Not on view Käthe Kollwitz. Self-Portrait, Hand at the Forehead (Selbstbildnis mit der Hand an der Stirn). (1910, published c. 1946/1948)
    Käthe Kollwitz
    Self-Portrait, Hand at the Forehead (Selbstbildnis...
    (1910, published c. 1946/1948)
    Käthe Kollwitz. Self-Portrait, Hand at the Forehead (Selbstbildnis mit der Hand an der Stirn). (1910, published c. 1946/1948)
  • Not on view Käthe Kollwitz. For Greater Berlin (Für Gross Berlin). 1912
    Käthe Kollwitz
    For Greater Berlin (Für Gross Berlin)
    1912
    Käthe Kollwitz. For Greater Berlin (Für Gross Berlin). 1912
  • Not on view Käthe Kollwitz. Small Self-Portrait (Kleines Selbstbildnis) (plate 3) from the illustrated book Deutsche Graphiker der Gegenwart (German Printmakers of Our Time). 1920
    Käthe Kollwitz
    Small Self-Portrait (Kleines Selbstbildnis)...
    1920
    Käthe Kollwitz. Small Self-Portrait (Kleines Selbstbildnis) (plate 3) from the illustrated book Deutsche Graphiker der Gegenwart (German Printmakers of Our Time). 1920
  • Not on view Various Artists with Paul Klee, Max Beckmann, Karl Caspar, Conrad Felixmüller, Erich Heckel, René Beeh, Heinrich Campendonk, Lovis Corinth, August Gaul, Ernst Barlach, George Grosz, Max Unold, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin, Max Liebermann, Ludwig Meidner, Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein, Adolf Ferdinand Schinnerer, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Richard Seewald, Rudolf Grossmann, Lyonel Feininger. Deutsche Graphiker der Gegenwart (German Printmakers of Our Time). 1920
    Various Artists with Paul Klee, Max Beckmann, Karl...
    Deutsche Graphiker der Gegenwart (German...
    1920
    Various Artists with Paul Klee, Max Beckmann, Karl Caspar, Conrad Felixmüller, Erich Heckel, René Beeh, Heinrich Campendonk, Lovis Corinth, August Gaul, Ernst Barlach, George Grosz, Max Unold, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin, Max Liebermann, Ludwig Meidner, Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein, Adolf Ferdinand Schinnerer, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Richard Seewald, Rudolf Grossmann, Lyonel Feininger. Deutsche Graphiker der Gegenwart (German Printmakers of Our Time). 1920
  • Not on view Käthe Kollwitz. Fear (Das Bangen) (in-text plate, p. 40) from the periodical Kriegszeit. Künstlerflugblätter, vol. 1, no. 10 (28 Oct 1914). 1914
    Käthe Kollwitz
    Fear (Das Bangen) (in-text plate, p. 40) from...
    1914
    Käthe Kollwitz. Fear (Das Bangen) (in-text plate, p. 40) from the periodical Kriegszeit. Künstlerflugblätter, vol. 1, no. 10 (28 Oct 1914). 1914
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