The Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

From a collection to a museum

On 22 April 1985, the 40th anniversary of the death of the artist, the Käthe Kollwitz Museum was founded in Cologne – the first museum to be entirely devoted to this important German artist of the 20th century.

Today, the museum boasts the largest Kollwitz collection worldwide and conveys a well-rounded picture of the draughtswoman, graphic artist and sculptor. Like no other artist, Kollwitz emphatically addressed the themes of war, poverty and death in her works, but there was also a strong focus on love, protection and the pursuit of peace. There is hardly a better place than this museum to get a close understanding of Käthe Kollwitz.

1983 – 60 DRAWINGS AS THE COLLECTION’S FOUNDATION STONE

In 1983, the Kreissparkasse Köln – Cologne Savings Bank – acquired a portfolio of 60 drawings that would form the collection’s foundation stone. These works are from the arstist’s estate and were in her possession until her death. Acquisition by the Print Collection of the municipal Wallraf-Richartz-Museums was not possible, but the commitment of the Kreissparkasse Köln – in line with the Cologne tradition of art patronage – saved the works from being scattered across the globe when they were being auctioned. In 1984 another set of works from a private collection was added so that the Kreissparkasse Köln was able to exhibit 112 drawings when the museum was opened in 1985.

A selection of the first works from the Cologne Kollwitz Collection

Käthe Kollwitz, Child, held by its mother, 1892, pencil on drawing cardboard, NT 63, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Child, held by its mother, 1892, pencil on drawing cardboard, NT 63

Käthe Kollwitz, full-length self-portrait, seated, 1893, pen and ink, washed, NT 87, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, full-length self-portrait, seated, 1893, pen and ink, washed, NT 87

Käthe Kollwitz, female nude from the back, kneeling, 1904-06, black chalk, NT 339, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, female nude from the back, kneeling, 1904-06, black chalk, NT 339

Käthe Kollwitz, Farewell, 1910, charcoal, stumped, on handmade Ingres paper, NT 616, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Farewell, 1910, charcoal, stumped, on handmade Ingres paper, NT 616

Käthe Kollwitz, Under the Arch of the Bridge, 1928, charcoal and black chalk, stumped, on drawing paper, NT 1161, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Under the Arch of the Bridge, 1928, charcoal and black chalk, stumped, on drawing paper, NT 1161

Käthe Kollwitz, self-portrait with Karl Kollwitz, 1938-1940, charcoal, stumped, on yellowish handmade Ingres paper, NT 1276, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, self-portrait with Karl Kollwitz, 1938-1940, charcoal, stumped, on yellowish handmade Ingres paper, NT 1276

1985 – THE FIRST EXHIBITION

By 1985, as a result of further acquisitions and donations, the collection had grown to comprise a total of 120 drawings, 60 prints and all 15 of the artist’s sculptures than can be exhibited indoors. An agreement with the joint heirs of the Kollwitz estate stipulates that the collection must not be sold, but should be completed and made accessible to academic research and editing, and be presented to the general public.

A first and important step was the presentation of the Käthe-Kollwitz-Collection of the Kreissparkasse Köln, which was the official name of the collection on the 40th anniversary of the artist’s death on 22 April 1985. For this purpose, the Kreissparkasse Köln converted the office space on the former executive floor – roughly 800 square metres – into small exhibition rooms.

This first exhibition also marked the birth of the museum. Many visitors as well as the press referred to it as the first Käthe Kollwitz Museum.

The founding director of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln was Dr. Jutta Bohnke-Kollwitz, a granddaughter of the artist.




1989 – A NEW VENUE FOR THE MUSEUM

After the collection had found its temporary home on the administrative floor at the main branch of the Kreissparkasse which could only be visited during opening hours, a new, purpose-built venue was made available in early 1989.

On 26 January 1989 the new museum, designed by the architect Hans Schilling was opened. It is located on the 4th floor of the Neumarkt Passage shopping gallery and offers 1,000 square metres of exhibition space where the works can be presented in an ideal environment and where excellent modern conservational care is ensured.

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne - View into the exhibition rooms


Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln - Blick in die Sammlung


Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln - Blick in die Sammlung


1990 UNTIL TODAY –
PRESENTING, CONSERVING, RESEARCHING, COLLECTING, INFORMING

Hannelore Fischer M.A. 

Since 1990 the director of the museum has been the art historian Hannelore Fischer M.A., who had been involved in the fundamental work for the creation of the museum from the very beginning.

Giving due regard to the five pillars of traditional museum work, the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln has not only found its firm position in Cologne’s cultural life under her directorship, but has become the most comprehensive and important Kollwitz collection and enjoys worldwide renown as one of the major monographic collections.

Presenting. Apart from the presentation of major works from the permanent collection, the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln offers special exhibitions focusing on historical and thematic connections, artistic techniques and photography, as well as monographic exhibitions of artists with a particular relationship to the works of Kollwitz.

Conserving. The works at the Cologne Kollwitz collection are – where this becomes necessary – restored by renowned specialists according to modern standards of conservational conditions with regard to climate control, air monitoring and light protection. Conserving the objects also includes appropriate art-handling as well as all aspects of safety and security.

Researching. Research into the provenance of the works at the Cologne Kollwitz collection has highest priority, both for academic and for legal reasons. The museum’s research activities – above all the publication of catalogues raisonnés of sculptural works, prints and drawings (in process) – set the benchmark and awaken international interest in the artist. These activities are based on an excellent library – including a photo library – and research archives.

Collecting. The concept behind the museum’s collecting activities is to complement the collection, making it accessible to academic research and to present a comprehensive image of the artist and her works. The focal points are above all the drawings from her early period and folios documenting the artist’s approach to her work. For this reason, the Kollwitz collection has a large number of preparatory drawings and proofs for the cycles »Ein Weberaustand« (A Weavers’ Revolt) (1893–97), »Bauernkrieg« (Peasants War) (1902/03–1908) and »Krieg« (War) (1921/22). Another collection focus are preparatory works for the etching »Tod, Frau und Kind« (Death, Woman and Child) (1910) – a theme which the artist thoroughly explored, above all during the especially productive period of 1910/1911.

Informing. The Käthe Kollwitz Museum’s educational programme with its guided tours and workshop for various different target groups, public lectures and discussion groups, as well as the publication of catalogues, aims at communicating the importance of the artist on a local level. At the same time, the museum regards itself as an ambassador. Numerous requests for loans from museums outside Cologne demonstrate the importance of the Cologne Kollwitz collection on a national and international level and reflect the continuing interest in Käthe Kollwitz worldwide.

Highlights of the museum’s history

Six exhibition highlights from three decades

The Kollwitz Collection of the Dresden Print Room, prints and drawings 1890-1912. 26 January - 29 March 1989

The first exhibition at the new venue:
More than 60,000 visitors saw this elaborately orchestrated East German/West German show:
The Kollwitz Collection of the Dresden Print Room, prints and drawings 1890-1912.
26 January - 29 March 1989
 

Käthe Kollwitz. Master Drawings. 20 April - 18 June 1995

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the museum, the Cologne collection presented an exhibition of Kollwitz highlights in collaboration with more than 50 international lenders:
Käthe Kollwitz. Master Drawings
20 April - 18 June 1995

 Käthe Kollwitz - Die trauernden Eltern. Ein Mahnmal für den Frieden. 29. Oktober - 12. Dezember 1999

This exhibition on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the installation of the sculptures in the Cologne church ruin of Alt St. Alban highlighted the lengthy creation process of this important memorial:
Käthe Kollwitz – Mourning Parents
A Memorial for Peace
29 October - 12 December 1999

 Käthe Kollwitz - Die trauernden Eltern. Ein Mahnmal für den Frieden. 29. Oktober - 12. Dezember 1999

20th anniversary of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne: The Cologne Kollwitz collection regularly presents its new acquisitions, such as a show in 2006 featuring works acquired during the anniversary year 2005. Thanks to the museum’s sponsor, the Kreissparkasse Köln, its collection is still being continually added to.

»Paris bezauberte mich...« Käthe Kollwitz und die französische Moderne 29. Oktober 2010 - 30. Januar 2011

Colour in the works of Käthe Kollwitz! On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne published its research on the influence of French Modernism on the artist’s work and staged the exhibition
»Paris bezauberte mich...« (Paris enthralled me…) Käthe Kollwitz and French Modernism
29 October 2010 - 16 January 2011

GUSSGESCHICHTEN - Das plastische Werk von Käthe Kollwitz in Gips, Stucco, Bronze und Zink 4. März – 5. Juni 2016

A milestone of Kollwitz research: On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the museum presented the first catalogue raisonné of Käthe Kollwitz’ sculptural work and staged a special exhibition
GUSSGESCHICHTEN (Casting Stories) -
Käthe Kollwitz’ sculptural work in plaster, stucco, bronze and zinc

4 March – 5 June 2016

The Kreissparkasse Köln -
the savings bank that operates the museum

Statement by Dr. Hans-Joachim Möhle, CEO, on the occasion of the opening of the museum in 1985

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The question arises what is the motivation of a savings bank such as the Kreissparkasse Köln to become so closely involved in the life and work of Käthe Kollwitz.

One of Käthe Kollwitz’ dominant themes is working life and deprivation. This is also where the communal and independent savings banks have their historical roots. They were created in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as institutes for the relief of and care for the poor. The first German Savings Banks Convention in 1882 was still held in conjunction with a conference of care workers for the poor.

A savings bank that turns its attentions to the work of Käthe Kollwitz thus goes back to its origins. This recollection seems all the more appropriate as it sometimes appears difficult to recognise the former ›poor people’s banks‹ in the large organisations involved in the savings banks sector – and the Kreissparkasse Köln is one of these organisations. It would be dishonest – and in the long term fatal – to ignore these origins – irrespective of the fact that, owing to changing social and economic conditions, savings banks can today no longer style themselves as banks for the poor.«

On the occasion of the opening of the museum in 1985
Dr. Hans-Joachim Möhle,
Chief Executive Officer
of the Kreissparkasse Köln (1979–1990)

Address

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Neumarkt 18-24 / Neumarkt Passage

50667 Köln

+49 (0)221 227 2899

+49 (0)221 227 2602

Opening hours

Tue - Fri

10 am – 6 pm

Sat - Sun

11 am – 6 pm

Public holidays

11 am – 6 pm

Mon

closed

Please note

The Museum is closed on Christmas Eve, 1st and 2nd Christmas Day and New Year's Eve as well as on carnival days from Weiberfastnacht (Thursday) to Veilchendienstag (Tuesdey).