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Artists Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz Photo

Käthe Kollwitz

German Printmaker and Sculptor

Movement: German Expressionism

Born: July 8, 1867 - Königsberg, East Prussia

Died: April 22, 1945 - Moritzburg, Germany

Käthe Kollwitz Timeline

Quotes

"My real motive for choosing my subjects almost exclusively from the life of the workers was that only such subjects gave me in a simple and unqualified way what I felt to be beautiful..."
Käthe Kollwitz
"The working-class woman shows me her hands, her feet and her hair. She lets me see the shape and form of her body through her clothes. She presents herself and the expression of her feelings openly, without disguises."
Käthe Kollwitz
"Unsolved problems such as prostitution and unemployment grieved and tormented me, and contributed to my feeling that I must keep on with my studies of the lower classes. And portraying them again and again opened a safety-valve for me; it made life bearable."
Käthe Kollwitz
"Made a drawing: the mother letting her dead son slide into her arms. I might make a hundred such drawings and yet I do not get any closer to him. I am seeking him. As if I had to find him in the work...I feel obscurely that I could throw off this inadequacy, that Peter is somewhere in the work and I might find him."
Käthe Kollwitz
"Whenever people love one another something very sad remains. Life remains always life to live, and so is earth-bound. Perhaps, for that very reason, life is all the more beautiful, for it is always permeated with this sadness. Why do tears run down people's faces just when they see the most basic, human sights? Because to become one with the earth is the most frightening reality."
Käthe Kollwitz
"All my work hides within it life itself, and it is with life that I contend through my work."
Käthe Kollwitz
"I am content that my art should have purposes outside itself. I would like to exert influence in these times when human beings are so perplexed and in need of help."
Käthe Kollwitz
"When I was drawing I cried along with the fearful children, I felt the burden I was carrying."
Käthe Kollwitz
"Every war already carries within it the war which will answer it."
Käthe Kollwitz
"But some day a new ideal will arise and there will be an end of all wars...People will have to work hard for that new state of things, but they will achieve it."
Käthe Kollwitz

"At such moments, when I know I am working with an international society opposed to war, I am filled with a warm sense of contentment."

Synopsis

Fiercely committed to portraying the plights of workers and peasants, Käthe Kollwitz rendered the grief and harrowing experiences of both historical and contemporary wars in the first decades of the 20th century. Bucking usual artistic trends, Kollwitz adopted printmaking as her primary medium, and drawing from her own socialist and anti-war sentiments, she harnessed the graphic and expressive powers of the medium to present to the public an unvarnished look at the root causes and long-lasting effects of war. While her interest in printmaking and sometimes her subject matter coincided with the Expressionist painters in Germany, she remained independent from them, charting her own path in the burgeoning world of modern art.

In following the example of Goya's print series, The Disasters of War, Kollwitz's depictions of rebellion, poverty, and loss refuse the melodrama of war and sacrifice and instead concentrate on specific personal experiences that can be understood by many. In addition to her powerful visual legacy that still reverberates among graphic protest artists, her role as a recognized, leading female artist of the time ensures her place in the annals of 20th-century modern art.

Key Ideas

While Kollwitz initially began her artistic training as a painter, she quickly found her voice in printmaking. Over the years, as she mastered several different printmaking techniques and experimented with combining them, she was able to simplify her graphic compositions, removing extraneous details and imbuing them with even greater emotional effect that had a more universal impact.
While many modern artists explored the realms of abstraction to convey the ramifications of modernity and war, Kollwitz committed herself to an expressive naturalism in order to convey more deeply the range of emotions and experiences unleashed by these difficult times.
As an artist and a mother, Kollwitz was instrumental in establishing new ways in which modern women could portray themselves in art outside of traditional guises. Kollwitz created several self-portraits and portrayed women working, mourning, and leading revolutions. In particular, Kollwitz explored the subject of motherhood in all of its complexity throughout her long career.
While noted as a highly skilled printmaker, Kollwitz also turned her attention to sculpture, creating several memorials that explored her abiding anti-war themes of mourning and grief in three dimensions. Sometimes drawing on religious themes, such as the pietà, Kollwitz's sculpture embody a deep empathy with human suffering.

Biography

Käthe Kollwitz Photo

Childhood

Käthe Ida Schmidt (later Kollwitz) was the fifth child of seven born to parents Katharina and Karl Schmidt. Karl trained as a lawyer, but he declined to practice due to the incongruousness of his political views with the authoritarian Prussian state. He later joined the German Social Democratic Workers Party (SPD), but ultimately worked as a stonemason and became an expert builder. Katharina grew up in a strict, radically political and religious household. Katharina and Karl equally supported the professional aspirations of their four surviving children and ensured that their daughters received every educational and training opportunity available. Käthe's later progressive values and politics were firmly rooted in her childhood.

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Käthe Kollwitz Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Käthe Kollwitz
Interactive chart with Käthe Kollwitz's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

William Hogarth
Max KlingerMax Klinger
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin
Ernst Barlach
Francisco GoyaFrancisco Goya

Personal Contacts

Paul Cassirier
Gerhart Hauptmann
Otto Nagel
Albert Einstein
Thomas Mann

Movements

RealismRealism
SymbolismSymbolism

Influences on Artist
Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz
Years Worked: 1881 - 1945
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Sue CoeSue Coe
The Guerrilla GirlsThe Guerrilla Girls
Li Hua
Frances Clark
Hedwig Weiss

Personal Contacts

Agnes Smedley
Muriel Rukeyser
Lu Xun
Kelley Aitkin

Movements

German ExpressionismGerman Expressionism
Chinese Woodcuts
Propaganda art

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Content compiled and written by Elizabeth Berkowitz

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Elizabeth Berkowitz
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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