Short biography
(for more detailed information and photographs on her life and work see time line)

Käthe Kollwitz is born on 8 July 1867, the fifth child of Carl Schmidt and Katharina Schmidt, née Rupp, in Königsberg (today Kaliningrad).

Her grandfather, Julius Rupp, founds the first "Freie evangelische Gemeinde" (Free Religious Congregation) in Königsberg and becomes its first minister. After his death, his son-in-law Carl Schmidt takes over this office.

Her father studied law, but had to abandon a legal career as a result of his membership of the "Freie evangelische Gemeinde". He then trained as a mason and became a successful builder.

Käthe Kollwitz' drawing skills are discovered by her father to whom she owes her training as an artist. She receives her first instruction in Königsberg from the painter Gustav Naujok and the copperplate engraver Rudolf Mauer.

Käthe Kollwitz meets the writers Gerhart Hauptmann and Arno Holz on a journey to the Engadine. In Munich she is fascinated by the work of Rubens in the Alte Pinakothek.
Immediately after this journey she attends the painting class for portrait studies with Karl Stauffer-Bern at the Women's Academy Berlin for one year. Stauffer-Bern draws her attention to the engraver Max Klinger.

Käthe Kollwitz returns to Königsberg and receives instruction from the painter Emil Neide.
She becomes engaged to the medical student Karl Kollwitz, a school friend of her brother Konrad. Karl Kollwitz is a member of the Social Democrats and is close to the "Free Congregation".

Käthe Kollwitz studies at the Women's Academy Munich with Ludwig Herterich.

After her return to Königsberg she continues her studies of "Germinal", Emile Zola's novel about miners. To this end she makes character studies in pubs frequented by sailors. Her former teacher Rudolf Mauer introduces her to graphic techniques.

Marriage to Dr Karl Kollwitz and relocation to Berlin, where Karl Kollwitz opens a surgery for patients insured under the public health scheme in the Prenzlauer Berg quarter in what is now the Kollwitzstraße.

Käthe Kollwitz receives the decisive impulse for her concentration on graphic art and the inspiration of using this technique to portray the more difficult aspects of human life from the theoretical work "Malerei und Zeichnung" by Max Klinger.

She plans a cycle of prints on Zola's novel "Germinal" which she abandons in 1893.

Birth of her son Hans.

Under the impression of the premiere of the play "The Weavers" by Gerhart Hauptmann based on the famine-induced revolt of Silesian weavers in 1844, Käthe Kollwitz begins her first cycle of prints entitled "A Weavers' Revolt". In 1897 she successfully finishes work on the cycle.

Birth of her son Peter.

Käthe Kollwitz succeeds in achieving her breakthrough as an artist with her cycle ""A Weavers' Revolt" at the "Große Berliner Kunstausstellung". Emperor William II refuses to follow the recommendation of the jury to award her a medal.

Käthe Kollwitz receives a teaching appointment at the Women's Academy Berlin for engraving and drawing.

She takes part in the first exhibition of the "Berlin Secession".

Käthe Kollwitz is a member of the "Berlin Secession" from 1901 to 1913.

Inspired by her reading of Wilhelm Zimmermann's "Allgemeine Geschichte des Großen Bauernkrieges" (General history of the great peasants' revolt) she begins work on the second cycle "Peasants' War".

With the support of Max Lehrs Käthe Kollwitz is commissioned to create her planned cycle on the peasants' revolt as a gift for the "Verbindung für historische Kunst" (association of historical art).

During a two-month stay in Paris for study purposes Käthe Kollwitz attends the Académie Julian in order to acquire the fundamentals of sculpture. Her growing interest in sculpture takes her to the studios of Auguste Rodin.


Käthe Kollwitz designs the poster for the "Deutsche Heimarbeit-Ausstellung" in Berlin (exhibition of the German home industries). The empress refuses to visit the exhibition as long as the poster is on public display.

The award of the "Villa Romana Prize" donated by Max Klinger makes it possible for her to spend several months in Florence. Accompanied by a friend, she goes on a walking tour to Rome lasting three weeks.

Completion of the "Peasants' War"" cycle.
There are diary entries for the period from September 1908 to May 1943.

From 1908 to 1910 Käthe Kollwitz works freelance for "Simplicissimus". The artist deals directly with the current problems of the proletariat in 14 drawings for the satirical periodical. She increasingly uses her drawings as an instrument of social and political commitment.


Beginning of her sculptural work. She creates a portrait in relief of her grandfather Julius Rupp for a memorial stone in Königsberg, which is erected on the occasion of his 100th anniversary of his birth.

Käthe Kollwitz is elected on to the executive committee of the "Berlin Secession".

Her poster for the "Lobby Greater Berlin" is banned on account of "incitement to class hatred". She points to the poor and overcrowded living conditions in the city.

After the "Berlin Secession" splits, Käthe Kollwitz joins the "Free Secession" and is a member of the executive committee from 1914-16.

She is co-founder and first president of the Women's art association.

Her sculpture "Lovers" is created between 1913 and 1915.


Her son Peter falls as a volunteer in Belgium shortly after the beginning of the First World War on 22 October. As the war progresses Käthe Kollwitz becomes a pacifist.

The artist plans a memorial to her fallen son which does not find definitive expression until 1932 in the memorial "Mourning Parents".  

Numerous exhibitions take place on the occasion of Käthe Kollwitz' 50th birthday. The most important is organised by Paul Cassirer in conjunction with the artist. It is shown in his gallery in Berlin, subsequently in Dresden and Königsberg.

In an open letter published by the newspaper "Vorwärts" on 30 October 1918 Käthe Kollwitz opposes Richard Dehmel's "Call for a last War Contingent". She concludes her letter with a quotation from Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister's apprenticeship": "Seed for sowing should not be milled".
Her attempt to come to terms with her wartime experiences leads to a series of graphic works on this subject which culminate in the woodcut sequence "War".

Käthe Kollwitz is the first woman to become a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts and is at the same time appointed professor.

At the request of his family Käthe Kollwitz draws the assassinated Karl Liebknecht in the mortuary.

Address at the grave of Max Klinger as the representative of the "Free Secession".
The artist takes up cudgels against the postwar emergency situation in a poster and in "Leaflets against Profiteering".

Inspired by woodcuts by Ernst Barlach, she creates the memorial print for Karl Liebknecht as one of her first works using this technique.

Birth of Peter her first grandchild, her grandchildren Jördis and Jutta were born in 1923 and Arne-Andreas in 1934.

Participation in the "Schwarz-Weiß Ausstellungen" (black and white exhibitions) of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin until 1934.

Käthe Kollwitz executes her sequence of prints on war as woodcuts.

She designs the poster "Help Russia" as a contribution to dealing with the catastrophic drought in the Volga region.

After Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen the International Trade Union Organisation commissions Käthe Kollwitz to create a poster for the Anti-War Day in September 1924 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. It is entitled "The Survivors - War against war!" and is published in several languages.

With the poster "Germany's Children are Starving!" for the IAH (Internationale Arbeiterhilfe) Käthe Kollwitz takes a stand against suffering caused by inflation.

The portfolio of drawings "Farewell And Death" with 8 facsimile drawings by the artist is published with an introduction by Gerhart Hauptmann.

She creates one of her most famous posters entitled "Never Again War" for the Central German Youth Conference of the Socialist Workers Movement .

The artist contributes a lithograph to the "Famine" portfolio for the IAH.

Death of Käthe Kollwitz' mother, Katharina Schmidt, who has lived at the Kollwitz family flat since 1919.

The artist creates the woodcut sequence "Proletariat".

Between 1926 and 1932 Käthe Kollwitz creates a sculptural self-portrait.

Käthe Kollwitz travels to Belgium with her husband and visits the military cemetery in Roggevelde near Dixmuiden where her son Peter is buried. The work on her memorial "The Mourning Parents" is then completed.

Numerous honours and exhibitions on the occasion of her 60th birthday.

In November Käthe Kollwitz, accompanied by her husband, travels to Moscow to attend the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.

Käthe Kollwitz works as director of the Meisteratelier (master studio) for graphic art at the "Preußische Akademie der Künste" in Berlin.

The artist is awarded the medal "Pour le Mérite" for science and art.

Together with Hans Baluschek Käthe Kollwitz assumes the role of protector for the film "Mutter Krausen's Fahrt ins Glück" (Mother Krausen's Trip to Happiness) which is made in honour of Heinrich Zille. She designs a poster for it.

Käthe Kollwitz completes her sculptural masterpiece, the memorial "The Mourning Parents" and exhibits the two plaster figures for the first time at the Berlin Academy exhibition.

The sculptures of the "The Mourning Parents" are executed in Belgian granite by the sculptors August Rhades and Fritz Diederich and exhibited in the foyer of the National Gallery in Berlin. In July Käthe Kollwitz and her husband travel to Belgium to supervise the erection of the memorial at the military cemetery Roggevelde.

Käthe and Karl Kollwitz sign the urgent appeal for the merger of the SPD and the KPD in order to prevent a National Socialist majority in the elections to the Reichstag on 31 July.

After the rise to power of the National Socialists Käthe and Karl Kollwitz and Heinrich Mann still support the urgent appeal for a merger of the leftwing parties on the occasion of the last free elections on 5 March. Käthe Kollwitz and Heinrich Mann are then forced by the Nationalist Socialists to leave the Preußische Akademie der Künste.


Käthe Kollwitz begins work on her last graphic sequence entitled "Death" which she completes in 1937.

She finds a new workshop in the communal studio in the Klosterstraße in order to finish her major sculpture "Mother With Two Children". For her younger fellow-artists she becomes a model of integrity and stamina.

Beginning of the unofficial ban on exhibiting her work.

In 1935/36 she creates the bronze relief "Rest in the Peace of His Hands" for her own family tomb on the central cemetery of Berlin-Friedrichsfelde.

An article in the Moscow newspaper Isvestia based on an interview with Käthe Kollwitz leads to her being interrogated by the Gestapo. She is threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp if the offence should be repeated.

The exhibits of the artist submitted for the Berlin Academy Exhibition are removed one day before the opening of the exhibition.

As all the plans for a public exhibition on her 70th birthday are thwarted in Germany, she presents a selection of her works in her studio in the Klosterstraße.

The artist has the sculpture "Mother with two children", completed in 1936, executed in muschelkalk.

She creates her sculpture "Pietà" between 1937 and 1938/39.

She attends the funeral of Ernst Barlach. Her mourning is expressed in the bronze relief "Lamentation" completed in 1940.

Death of Karl Kollwitz.

In the small sculpture "Farewell" (1940/41) Käthe Kollwitz comes to terms with the loss of her husband.

The lithograph "Seed for sowing should not be milled" is created as the artist's legacy.

Her eldest grandson Peter dies in action in Russia.

She creates her last small sculpture "Two Soldiers' Wives, Waiting" before being evacuated to Nordhausen.

Käthe Kollwitz' apartment and her son's house in Berlin are destroyed in air raids.


Käthe Kollwitz accepts an invitation by Prince Henry of Saxony to come to Moritzburg.

On 22 April, a few days before the end of the war Käthe Kollwitz dies at Moritzburg.

In the autumn of the same year the urn containing the artist's ashes is transferred to Berlin and buried in the family grave at the Central Cemetery in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde.