Käthe Kollwitz was an exceptional artist who was a champion of the poor and those who struggled in society. Born in East Prussia in 1867, Kollwitz came from a middle class family. Her father was, in spite of his class, a socialist, and her grandfather was a protestant minister who had been expelled from his church for his independent views. At the age of fourteen, she was encouraged by her father to begin studying art, and she went on to study in Munich and Berlin. At twenty-three she married Karl Kollwitz, a young doctor who ran a clinic in a Berlin working-class district. Käthe and Karl lived in that same district and stayed there for fifty years. Kollwitz struggled to maintain a career and raise a family. Her work was always socially conscious and filled with compassion and empathy for the working poor, as well as a strong anti-war bias. War, poverty and the plight of women and children were her constant themes. The death of her eighteen-year-old son, Peter, in World War I, was the greatest tragedy of her life and contributed to her anti-war fervor.
The first woman elected to the Prussian Academy, Kollwitz was later expelled from the academy by the Nazis because of her art and anti-war beliefs. She was forbidden to show her artwork, which was labeled "degenerate." Her grandson was killed in World War II, and a short time later, Kollwitz died in Berlin at the age of 78.
Additional resources on Käthe Kollwitz:
- Art-cyclopedia: Käthe Kollwitz An excellent reference site on Kollwitz. This is a great starting point for web exploration.
- GermanExpressionism.com This website on Kollwitz contains a bio as well as some examples of her woodcuts and lithographs.
- John Willett, Art and Politics in the Weimar Period: The New Sobriety 1917-1933 (De Capo Press, New York) 1996.