Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)

Biographical data of the artist

Childhood, Youth and Education (1867-1890)

Käthe Schmidt aged 5, 1872, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Schmidt aged 5, 1872

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

1881–1886
Her father became aware of the artistic skills of his daughter. It was thanks to him that she was educated to become an artist.
Käthe Schmidt had her first art lessons in Königsberg with the painter Gustav Naujok (no reliable biographical data) and the copperplate engraver Rudolf Mauer (1845–1905).

1886
During a trip to the Engadine, Käthe Schmidt made the acquaintance of the two naturalistic writers Gerhart Hauptmann (1862–1946) and Arno Holz (1863–1929) in Berlin. In Munich she was fascinated by the works of Rubens in the Alte Pinakothek.

After her journey she enrolled in the painting class for portrait studies at the Berliner Künstlerinnenschule (Berlin Academy for Women Artists) under the Swiss painter, graphic artist and sculptor Karl Stauffer-Bern (1857–1891). This teacher drew her attention to the artist Max Klinger (1857–1920) whose etching series »Ein Leben« (A Life), published in 1884, aroused her enthusiasm at an exhibition in Berlin. Klinger’s cycles »Ein Leben« and »Eine Liebe« (A Love) are of particular importance for the work of Käthe Kollwitz.

1887–1888
Käthe Schmidt returned to Königsberg and had lessons with the painter Emil Neide (1843–1908). This painter of historical subjects, genre paintings and portraits from Königsberg was held in great esteem as a history painter in East Prussia. He was involved in the decoration of the auditorium of Königsberg University and the assembly halls of several grammar schools in Insterburg and Königsberg, where he painted mythological themes and murals on the history of Prussia.

In July 1888 Käthe’s parents announced the engagement of their daughter to the physician Karl Kollwitz (1863–1940), a school friend of her brother Konrad. Karl Kollwitz had close links to the Freie evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Community) and was a member of the Social Democrats. In 1913 he founded the Sozialdemokratischer Ärzteverein (Social Democratic Association of Physicians) and in 1919 he became a council member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin.

1888–1890
Käthe Schmidt enrolled for a place at the Academy for Women Artists in Munich where she was introduced to nude painting from a live model in the class of Ludwig Herterich (1856–1932).

In Munich the young artist experienced the breakthrough of naturalistic plein-air painting with depictions of the everyday life of ordinary people. This movement was spearheaded by Max Liebermann (1847–1935) and Fritz von Uhde (1848–1911). She also took an interest in naturalistic literature and the issue of women’s rights in these works and started her exploration of gender issues.

She created the first few drawings for the scene of a dispute from the novel »Germinal« by the French writer Émile Zola (1840–1902).

1890
Back in Königsberg, Käthe Schmidt executed the dispute scene from Zola’s novel »Germinal« as a painting and made preparatory drawings in taverns. Shortly afterwards – in the context of her wedding, the planned move to Berlin and the expected lack of space – she changed her plans and decided to execute the scene as an etching. For this purpose, she took lessons in graphic techniques with her first teacher, Rudolf Mauer.


ON THE PATH TO SUCCESS (1891-1900)

Käthe Kollwitz, c. 1890, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, c. 1890

1891
In 1891 Käthe Schmidt and Dr. Karl Kollwitz were married. They moved to Berlin, where Karl opened a surgery as a panel doctor in Weissenburger Strasse (today: Kollwitzstrasse) in the district of Prenzlauer Berg. The couple moved into a flat at the same address. Käthe Kollwitz lived there for over 50 years until summer 1943.

Max Liebermann (1847–1935) became a formative model for Käthe Kollwitz who, after completing her studies in Munich, began to consciously approach the artistic representation of working-class life in typical situations. These depictions were still free from any social criticism.

The artist later explained that the decisive impulse to turn to graphic art and explore the negative sides of life had come from Max Klinger’s essay on art theory entitled »Malerei und Zeichnung« (painting and drawing). This essay, first published in 1891, strengthened her resolve to delve into graphic art.

The artist made plans to create a print cycle based on Zola’s novel »Germinal«.

1892
Birth of her son Hans Kollwitz (1892–1971).

1893
Swayed by the premiere of the naturalistic drama »Die Weber« (The Weavers) by Gerhart Hauptmann, which was based on the food riots of Silesian weavers in 1844, Käthe Kollwitz decided to abandon the cycle on »Germinal« and began work on her first complete graphic cycle »Ein Weberaufstand« (A Weavers’ Revolt) that she finished in 1897.

1896
Drawing of her eldest son Hans for her first lithograph.

Birth of her son Peter Kollwitz (1896–1914).

1898 
Käthe Kollwitz achieved an artistic breakthrough at the Große Berliner Kunstausstellung (Great Berlin Art Exhibition) with her cycle »Ein Weberaufstand«. Max Liebermann (1847–1935), a member of the awards jury, asserted himself with a proposal that Käthe Kollwitz be nominated for a medal. Kaiser Wilhelm II indignantly rejected this proposal.

Max Lehrs (1855–1938), director of the Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden (Print Room), became aware of Kollwitz and was the first museum director to collect the graphic works of Käthe Kollwitz. Alongside Max Liebermann, he became the most important sponsor of the young artist.

1898–1903
Käthe Kollwitz won a teaching assignment at the Berlin Academy for Women Artists and offered classes in etching and drawing from live models.

1899
The artist took part in the first exhibition of the Berliner Secession and the fifth exhibition of the Wiener Secession. In Vienna, the Albertina acquired the folio »Ende« from her »Weavers cycle« and thus laid the foundation stone for the museum’s Kollwitz collection.

Max Lehrs and Max Klinger, both members of the awards jury, arranged for Käthe Kollwitz to be awarded a small gold medal at the Deutsche Kunstausstellung (German Art Exhibition) in Dresden.

The etching »Aufruhr« (Uprising) was created as her first work on the theme of the Peasants’ War.


THE HAPPY DECADE (1901-1913)

Käthe Kollwitz, 1906, in front of her etching »Carmagnole«. Photographer: Philipp Kester, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, 1906, in front of her etching »Carmagnole«. Photographer: Philipp Kester

1901
Käthe Kollwitz became a member of the Berliner Secession which had been founded in 1898 as an antipole to the official art scene in Berlin.

First short trip to Paris. She visited the draughtsman, lithographer, poster artist, etcher and painter Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923), whose socio-critical, caricature-like representations of the social environment of Montmartre established his artistic reputation. She showed him a proof copy of her etching »Carmagnole« that she had just completed. The art dealer and collector Otto Ackermann, husband of her fellow student Maria Slavona, introduced her to the Paris art galleries. From Ambroise Vollard she bought a pastel by the young Picasso (1881–1973) entitled »La bête« from 1900.

Between 1901 and 1904 most of the artist’s works in colour were created.

In November 1901, at the Berliner Secession, Käthe Kollwitz presented a combination print in colour - »Frau mit Orange« (Woman with an Orange). The journal »Die Kunst für Alle« claimed that she had invented this printing technique.

For the first time, her works were included in exhibitions - in Paris at the gallery of Charles Hessèle and in London at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers.

Around 1900, Campbell Dodgson (1867–1948), assistant and from 1912 director of the department for prints and drawings at the British Museum, began collecting graphic works by contemporary artists. Dodgson acquired 36 select works by Käthe Kollwitz, mostly state proofs and rare prints, exclusively from the artist’s early period until 1910. Dodgson later bequeathed his excellent collection of over 5000 prints to the British Museum.

Kollwitz started work on her second graphic cycle, »Bauernkrieg« (Peasants’ War) after reading Wilhelm Zimmermann’s (1807–1878) Allgemeine Geschichte des großen Bauernkrieges from 1841–1843, which she probably came across in the illustrated popular edition of 1891. In Paris, inspired by cycles of colour lithographs by the Nabis group of artists and others, she initially designed her Peasants’ War cycle as a series of colour lithographs.

1902
The Berlin Kupferstichkabinett (Print Room) started to acquire prints by Käthe Kollwitz. During the artist’s lifetime, the print rooms in Berlin and Dresden established the largest public Kollwitz collections in Germany. The New York Public Library was the first public collection in the US to acquire her prints.

1903 
Max Lehrs (1855–1938) published the first catalogue with 50 listed prints by Käthe Kollwitz from the collection of the Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden in the journal »Die graphischen Künste«.

1904
Käthe Kollwitz successfully applied for funding to continue her Peasants’ War cycle from the Verbindung für historische Kunst (Association for Historical Art), who were in session in Dresden and had elected Max Lehrs as a member of the selection committee for graphic art. She was commissioned to complete the print cycle as the association’s courtesy gift by 1908. The art dealer Emil Richter in Dresden was involved in the acquisition. Käthe Kollwitz later granted Emil Richter the exclusive agency for her prints, which he held until 1931.

Second journey to Paris. For two months, Käthe Kollwitz visited the class for sculpting at the Académie Julian, presumably under Raoul Verlet (1857–1923), and learned the basics of sculptural work. Equipped with a letter of recommendation by Hugo von Tschudis, director of the Nationalgalerie Berlin, she visited the studios of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) in Paris and Meudon. In Paris she met the young sculptor Bernhard Hoetger (1874–1949) and the philosopher Georg Simmel (1858–1918), whose lectures were later attended by her son Hans.

1905
Käthe Kollwitz presented 13 of her works at the exhibition of the Paris Salon des Indépendants.

1906
Käthe Kollwitz designed the poster for the Deutsche Heimarbeit-Ausstellung (exhibition of German cottage industries) in Berlin – it showed the motif of an exhausted working-class woman. The Empress refused to visit the exhibition while the poster was publicly displayed.

1907
Käthe Kollwitz was awarded the Villa Romana Prize, donated by Max Klinger, which gave the winners the opportunity of a one-year study visit in Florence. She spent a comparatively short time there, one reason being that she did not want to jeopardise the completion of her Peasants’ War cycle.
During her stay in Italy she embarked on a three-week walking tour from Florence to Rome with a friend.

1908
Completion of the Peasants’ War cycle. It was printed in large numbers as the Verbindung für historische Kunst had shared the acquisition with the art dealer Richter in 1904 who made the cycle freely available on the market.

From 1908 to 1910 Käthe Kollwitz worked free-lance for the »Simplicissimus« magazine. The 14 drawings created for the satirical magazine directly addressed the topical problems of the proletariat and her graphic works increasingly became an instrument of social and political involvement.

The artist’s diary entries from September 1908 to May 1943 have been preserved.

In autumn 1908 Käthe Kollwitz began to model in clay.

1909
The »Portraitrelief Julius Rupp« was the first bronze cast of a work by Käthe Kollwitz to be executed by the Gladenbecksche Anstalt in Berlin for a commemorative stone in Königsberg on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Rupp’s birth.

1910
Between 1910 and 1912 she created further sculptural drafts, among them her first still extant small-scale sculpture »Frau mit Kind im Schoß« (Woman with Child on her Lap).

1912-1913 
Following a complaint by an association of landlords, her poster for the »Zweckverband Groß-Berlin« (Greater Berlin Administration Union) was banned. It denounced the extreme housing shortage in the city.

In September Käthe Kollwitz rented a studio at the Siegmundshof studio house in Berlin–Tiergarten until 1928.

The Print Room of the New York Public Library staged probably the first solo exhibition of Kollwitz’ works in the US.

In 1912 Käthe Kollwitz was elected board member of the Berliner Secession. After the Berliner Secession split, Käthe Kollwitz joined the Freie Secession, and remained a board member from1914 to 1916.

In 1913 Käthe Kollwitz was among the founders of the Frauenkunstverband (Association of Women Artists) and acted as its chairperson until 1923.

Between 1913 and 1915 she created the »Liebesgruppe« (Group of Lovers). From 1913 to 1918 the artist was predominantly occupied with her sculptural work.

In 1913 a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s graphic works, written by Johannes Sievers (1880–1969), was published and comprised a total of 122 works.


WAR YEARS (1914-1918)

Käthe Kollwitz, 1915, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, 1915

1914
Brief period of collaboration with the »Kriegszeit« magazine which was published from 1914 to 1916 by the gallery owner and publisher Paul Cassirer.

Käthe Kollwitz' younger son Peter was killed shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. Aged only 18, he died on 22 October as a volunteer in Belgium near Dixmuiden.

The artist decided to create a memorial for fallen soldiers to honour her son and all war volunteers. In 1915, she began work on a three-figure, larger than life ensemble that she planned to install on the Havelhöhe hills near Berlin. In 1919, however, she discontinued her work.

In the course of the war, Käthe Kollwitz became a pacifist.

1916
Kollwitz exhibited the »Liebesgruppe« (Group of lovers) as her very first sculptural work at the spring exhibition of the Freie Secession.

1917
On the occasion of Käthe Kollwitz’ 50th birthday there were numerous exhibitions. The Berliner Kupferstichkabinett (Berlin Print Room) presented almost her entire body of graphic works. At the Paul Cassirer gallery, the artist showed a large number of drawings for the first time. This show subsequently toured in Königsberg, Dresden, Hamburg and Mannheim.

Käthe Kollwitz wrote an obituary for Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) for the »Sozialistische Monatshefte« magazine.

1918
In an open letter, published on 28 October 1918 in the »Vorwärts« magazine and on 30 October 1918 in the »Vossische Zeitung«, Käthe Kollwitz courageously countered Richard Dehmel’s call for a final war effort. The letter was rapidly disseminated and closed with a quote from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: »Seeds for sowing should not be ground!«

11 November 1918: Armistice

Käthe Kollwitz started work on her print series »Krieg« (War) in which the artist addressed her personal experience and insight during the First World War.


NEW BEGINNINGS AND CHANGES - THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC (1919-1932)

Käthe Kollwitz, c. 1920, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, c. 1920

1919
Käthe Kollwitz became the first woman to be made a full member of the Preußische Akademie der Künste. At the same time, she was appointed professor. This appointment did not, at her own request, involve teaching activities, which she only took up in 1928.

In 1919 she also became a member of the main committee of the Bund Neues Vaterland (from 1922 Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte), the most important pacifist association in the First World War.

1920
On behalf of the Freie Secession, Käthe Kollwitz gave a eulogy at the grave of Max Klinger (1857–1920).

In a poster and »Flyers against profiteering«, the artist campaigned against post-war deprivation.

Inspired by Ernst Barlach’s (1870–1938) woodcuts, she created one of her first prints in this technique – a »Memorial sheet for Karl Liebknecht«.

1921
Birth of Kollwitz’ first grandson, Peter. His parents, Hans Kollwitz and Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz, named him after the younger son of the artist who fell in the First World War in 1914. Peter himself was drafted in 1940 and fell on 22 September 1942 on the eastern front near Rzhev.

Until 1924 Kollwitz, together with other intellectuals from around the world, was a member of the main committee and the foreign committee of the communist Internationale Arbeiterhilfe IAH (Workers International Relief WIR). On the organisation’s behalf, she designed the poster »Helft Russland« (Support Russia) as a contribution to overcoming the catastrophic drought in the Volga region.

Until 1934 Käthe Kollwitz took part in the Schwarz-Weiß Ausstellungen (black-and-white exhibitions) at the Berlin Preußische Akademie der Künste.

1921/22
Käthe Kollwitz completed her print series »Krieg« (War) as woodcuts.

1922
The artist signed the appeal of the Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte (German Human Rights League) for a rapprochement with France.

1923
Birth of Kollwitz’ twin granddaughters Jördis (1923–2018) and Jutta.

Publication of the portfolio »Abschied und Tod« (Farewell and Death) with eight facsimile drawings by the artist and an introduction by Gerhart Hauptmann.

After Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923), Käthe Kollwitz became the second artist to be commissioned with the design for a poster for the anti-war day in September 1924 by the International Labour Union. It was intended to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War and was entitled »Die Überlebenden. Krieg dem Kriege!« (The Survivors. War against War) and was published in several languages.

With her poster »Deutschlands Kinder hungern!« (Germany’s children are starving) for the Workers International Relief (WIR), Käthe Kollwitz confronted the deprivation resulting from hyperinflation.

1924
Käthe Kollwitz’ poster »Nie wieder Krieg« (Never again War) for the Mitteldeutscher Jugendtag der sozialistischen Arbeiterbewegung (Central German Convention of Young Socialist Workers) in Leipzig became an icon of the peace movement after World War II.

The artist participated in the portfolio »Hunger« (Starvation) for the WIR with a lithograph.

After Käthe Kollwitz scrapped her plans for a memorial for fallen soldiers in 1919, she designed a new concept for a memorial in 1924, 10 years after Peter’s death. It was to be installed at the war cemetery in Roggevelde near Dixmuiden, Belgium, where her son was buried. In June 1926 Käthe Kollwitz travelled to Belgium with her husband to visit the cemetery. Work on her redesigned memorial »Trauernde Eltern« (Mourning Parents) was subsequently finalised.

Publication of Kollwitz’ obituary for Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923) in the »Sozialistische Monatshefte« magazine.

In 1924/25 Kollwitz worked for the Internationale Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit (International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom) that had committed itself to informing people about the horrors of modern warfare. The league used a drawing by Kollwitz to warn against chemical warfare.

1925
Death of the artist’s mother, Katharina Schmidt (1837–1925), who had lived in the Kollwitz family flat from 1919. 



Completion of the woodcut series »Proletariat«.

1926
From 1926 to 1936 Käthe Kollwitz intermittently worked on her sculptural self-portrait.


60. BIRTHDAY – AT THE HEIGHT OF HER FAME

Käthe Kollwitz, 1927, selecting works for her exhibition at the Prussian Academy of Art, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, 1927, selecting works for her exhibition at the Prussian Academy of Art

1927 
On the occasion of her 60th birthday, Käthe Kollwitz received numerous honours and there were a number of exhibitions, among them one at the Prussian Academy of Art. Among the 500 letters and telegrams on her birthday were congratulations and good wishes from the German minister of the interior, the Prussian minister for culture, the Reichskunstwart (literally: imperial art protector) and the mayor of Berlin.
Käthe Kollwitz is at the zenith of her fame during her lifetime.

The Berlin journalist and Kollwitz collector Louise Diel (1893–1967) curated a touring exhibition in 1925 that was first shown in New York, then in Switzerland (Geneva) in 1926, and finally in several German cities in 1917 on the occasion of her 60th birthday.

As a member of the Society of Friends of the New Russia, Käthe Kollwitz received an invitation to attend the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution in Moscow and the world convention of the Friends of the Soviet Union that took place in Moscow from 9 to 12 November with 947 delegates from around the world. Karl Kollwitz accompanied her on this journey.

1928
On the occasion of the artist’s 60th birthday, the State Academy of the Science of Art (GAChN) in Moscow organised the first Käthe Kollwitz solo exhibition in the Soviet Union with 60 prints. It was shown at the Moscow State Museum of Fine Arts and at the Central Museum of the Tartar ASSR in Kazan.

1928–1932
Käthe Kollwitz was entrusted with the directorship of the masterclass for graphic art at the Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin and was given two large workrooms at the academy’s venue in Hardenbergstrasse.

1929
Käthe Kollwitz was the first woman to be awarded the order Pour le Mérite for Science and Art on 29 May 1929.

Together with the Berlin painter Hans Baluschek (1870–1935) Käthe Kollwitz took on the patronage for the film »Mutter Krausen’s Fahrt ins Glück« (Mother Krausen's Journey to Happiness) which was produced in commemoration of Heinrich Zille (1858–1929). She also designed a poster for the film.

1930
Birth of Kollwitz’ youngest grandson Arne Andreas.

The Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881–1936) began exploring the work of Kollwitz. With the support of the American journalist Agnes Smedley he acquired four works in 1931, published essays on the artist, and in 1936 a portfolio with Kollwitz reproductions in Shanghai.

1931
After the bankruptcy of the Dresden art dealer Emil Richter, Alexander von der Becke in Berlin was entrusted with the publication of Kollwitz’ graphic works.

The plaster casts of the memorial »Trauernde Eltern« (Mourning Parents) were shown at the Berlin Academy Exhibition for the first time.

1932
The sculptors August Rhades and Fritz Diederich executed the figures for the »Trauernde Eltern« after the artist’s plaster casts in Belgian granite. This made it possible for Kollwitz to present them in the atrium of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin. In July Käthe Kollwitz and her husband travelled to Belgium to supervise the installation of the memorial at the war cemetery in Roggevelde.

After their return from Belgium the artist had a new clay model made for her group of mothers. She had started work on the group in spring 1914. She began rearranging the group and completed her work in 1936, giving it the title »Mutter mit zwei Kindern« (Mother with two Children).

Before the elections on 31 July Käthe Kollwitz, together with Heinrich Mann and Albert Einstein, initiated an appeal for a union of KPD (Communist Party) and SPD (Social Democrats) to thwart the majority of the National Socialists. The appeal had the heading »Dringender Appell« (Urgent appeal) and was signed by 33 public figures, among them Karl Kollwitz, Erich Kästner, Ernst Toller and Arnold Zweig. It was only published by the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund in the Der Funke newspaper, but the poster was put up in Berlin.


LIFE AND WORK IN THE THIRD REICH (1933-1945)

Käthe and Karl Kollwitz, 1933, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe and Karl Kollwitz, 1933

1933 
In February 1933, even after the takeover of the National Socialists, Käthe Kollwitz supported another urgent appeal for a union of left-wing parties for the last free elections on 5 March. Posters were put up, but this time only 17 public figures signed the appeal. Alongside the artist and her husband, these included Heinrich Mann and Erich Kästner. Albert Einstein had already left Germany.

Heinrich Mann and Käthe Kollwitz, who had a masterclass studio at the Prussian Academy of Art from 1928, were forced to resign from the academy by being threatened that it would otherwise be closed down. In a gesture of solidarity, Wagner, head of the municipal planning and building office, decided to resign as well. Käthe Kollwitz was allowed to keep her studio at the academy until mid-January 1934.

Like many communists and social democrats, Käthe and Karl Kollwitz went to Czechoslovakia in March because they feared that they would be arrested. After a few weeks, however, the couple returned to Berlin.

In July 1933, Karl Kollwitz lost his licence to practice as a panel doctor. His protests were, however, successful and in October he and other physicians who were members of the Social Democratic Association of Physicians regained their licences. Hans Kollwitz lost his post as a school physician for a short period. His house was searched by the police and books about his mother were confiscated.

In the United States, Käthe Kollwitz’ popularity continued to rise. The Art Museum Worcester (Massachusetts) staged a Kollwitz exhibition in1933, in 1934 Harvard University showed prints by the artist, and in 1937 there was a show at the Hudson Gallery in New York. Sponsored by the College Art Association there were touring exhibitions with Kollwitz’ works in 1934/35, and presentations in Zeitlins Bookshop and Gallery in Los Angeles and the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego in 1937.

In the early 40s, further exhibitions were organised by the American Federation of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Brooklyn Museum in New York, Cleveland Museum of Art and others. In 1943/44 the Galerie St. Etienne in New York staged their first Kollwitz exhibition. This gallery became one of the artist’s most important mediators in the US.

1934
Käthe Kollwitz began working on the last of her print cycles, »Tod« (Death), which she completed in 1937.

In autumn 1934 she became a member of the Ateliergemeinschaft Klosterstraße (studio community) where she found a new workroom to complete her large-scale sculpture »Mutter mit zwei Kindern« (Mother with two Children).

For her younger fellow-artists she came to epitomise integrity and perseverance.


THE LAST DECADE (1935-1945)

Käthe Kollwitz, 1935, in front of a self-portrait. Photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, 1935, in front of a self-portrait

1935
Shortly before the opening of the exhibition »Berliner Kunst« (Berlin Art) at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich in spring, her works were removed. In winter, the same thing happened at an exhibition in Düsseldorf.

On 8 February Max Liebermann died. He had supported Kollwitz for many years and, being Jewish, was ostracised by the National Socialists. Kollwitz was present at his funeral.

From summer 1935 to February 1936 Kollwitz worked on the bronze relief »Ruht im Frieden seiner Hände« (Resting in the peace of his hands) for the family’s grave at the central cemetery in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde.

1936
An article in the Moscow newspaper Isvestija, which was based on an interview with Käthe Kollwitz, resulted in her being questioned by the Gestapo. She was threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp in the case of recurrence.

One day before the opening of the anniversary exhibition »Berliner Bildhauer. Von Schlüter bis zur Gegenwart« (Berlin sculptors. From Schlüter to the present day) at the Prussian Academy of Art, the two exhibits submitted by Käthe Kollwitz were removed.

1937
As part of the campaign »Entartete Kunst« (Degenerate art), works by Kollwitz were confiscated in at least eleven German museums. The works were either sold, exchanged or deposited with the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (propaganda ministry) as consignment stock. The art dealers Bernhard A. Böhmer, Karl Buchholz and Hildebrand Gurlitt were entrusted with the ›utilisation‹ of Kollwitz’ works.

An exhibition on the occasion of Käthe Kollwitz’ 70th birthday at the Berlin Galerie Nierendorf had to be cancelled, another one at the Buch- und Kunsthandlung Buchholz (art gallery and bookshop) was closed immediately after the opening. In the latter case, the exhibition remained accessible for friends of the art dealer and featured a stone cast of the »Mutter mit zwei Kindern« (Mother with two Children), which was presented for the first time.

As Kollwitz’ plans for public exhibitions in Germany were thwarted, the artist presented a selection of her works at her studio in Klosterstrasse.

Käthe Kollwitz had »Mutter mit zwei Kindern« executed in shell limestone. At the same time, she worked on three small-scale sculptures: »Abschiedwinkende Soldatenfrauen II« (Soldiers’ Wives waving farewell), »Turm der Mütter« (Tower of Mothers), and »Pietà«.

The United States was the main market for the sale of her works.

1938
On 24 October Ernst Barlach (1870–1938) died. Käthe Kollwitz made a drawing of the dead artist, went to his funeral and started work on her bronze relief »Die Klage« (Lament), which was a reflection of her mourning for his death. This work was probably completed in 1941.

Käthe Kollwitz was deeply shocked by the events during the Pogrom Night on 11 November. She suffered from the persecution of Jews whose fate she experienced at close quarters because of her sister Lisbeth Stern’s Jewish family. Only a few years later, during World War II, Kollwitz attempted to support her Jewish fellow artists with ration coupons for Aryans.

1939
Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891-1979), one of the most important American collectors of graphic art of that period, began acquiring works by Kollwitz. Over a period of only a few years he collected 115 prints and 27 drawings by the artist. He later donated his entire graphic collection to the National Gallery in Washington.

For health reasons, Karl Kollwitz was forced to give up his surgery.

Käthe Kollwitz, c. 1940, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln
Käthe Kollwitz, c. 1940

1940
On 19 July Karl Kollwitz (1863–1940) died. The small-scale sculpture »Abschied« (Farewell), completed in 1941, is an expression of Käthe Kollwitz’ loss.

In autumn, the artist gave up her studio in Klosterstrasse.

1941
The artist created her presumably last lithograph »Saatfrüchte sollen nicht vermahlen werden« (Seeds for sowing should not be ground). Only a few copies were printed as the artist’s legacy.

1942
On 22 September her grandson Peter was killed on the eastern front near Rzhev.

1943
As her last small-scale sculpture, Käthe Kollwitz completed the plaster cast of the group »Zwei wartende Soldatenfrauen« (Two Soldiers’ Wives waiting).

In August, the Berlin air raids prompted Käthe Kollwitz to move in with the sculptor Margret Böning (1911–1995) who lived in the town of Nordhausen, Thuringia, which had not yet been strongly affected by air raids.

In late November, her flat in Berlin was destroyed in an air raid. Käthe Kollwitz had lived and worked there for more than 50 years from 1891. The house of her son Hans in Berlin was severely damaged in early December.

1944
In July, Käthe Kollwitz accepted the invitation of Prinz Ernst Heinrich von Sachsen (1896–1971) to relocate to Moritzburg near Dresden where she moved into a two-room apartment at the Rüdenhof. Since 1995 the building has been a memorial site to the artist.

1945
On 22 April, a few days before the end of the war, Käthe Kollwitz died in Moritzburg.

In September, the urn containing the artist’s ashes was taken to Berlin to be buried in the family tomb at the central cemetery in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde.


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).