Who was Käthe Kollwitz?

Who was Käthe Kollwitz?

Käthe Kollwitz

You may not of heard of her, but Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was one of the most famous artists in Germany during her lifetime. She was born into a middle-class family who supported her desire to become an artist, encouraging her to study painting and printmaking in Munich. In the early 1890s, Kollwitz made the decision to focus solely on printmaking: a bold decision at the time, because it was seen as a "lower" art form compared to painting and sculpture. However, as prints are more affordable usually than paintings or sculpture, this meant a wider reach for her audience and more people saw her work. Over the next 50 years she experimented with the medium, producing series of woodcuts, etchings and lithographs. Her career coincided with the two World Wars; it was these images of war which would later be known as her most important works. 

Did you know?

Kollwitz was the first woman not only to be elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts but also to receive honorary professor status! This changed, however, in 1933 when the Nazi government forced her to resign her position, later labelling her art as 'degenerate' and forbidding her to exhibit. This is partially due to the anti-war messaging seen in many of her prints, including 'Battlefield' from 1908 (pictured), which depicts the tragic scene of a mother identifying her son amongst the war dead. These poignant images of human suffering are what made Kollwitz famous, but also caused controversy in Germany. Find out more by watching our film on Art and War presented by teacher Aleid Farnum-Ford from our Spotlight series. 

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