1867 - 1890

1867

Vita

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

Käthe Kollwitz, née Schmidt, was born on 8 July 1867 in Königsberg (modern day Kaliningrad), East Prussia, as the fifth child of Carl Schmidt (1825-1898) and Katharina Schmidt, née Rupp (1837-1925).

In her personal development she is decisively influenced by her father, her brother Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932) and the personalities of the Freie evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Community) in Königsberg, which was founded by her maternal grandfather Julius Rupp (1809-1884).

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Julius Rupp (1809-1884), c. 1860, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Julius Rupp (1809–1884)
Her grandfather, a politically liberal theologian, teacher and divisional chaplain, was an advocate for freedom of teaching and freedom of conscience and rejected the church’s dependency on the state and any coercion linked to faith and symbols. As a result, he lost his official positions in 1845 and in 1846 he founded the first German Freie evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Community) in Königsberg where all members, including women, had a voting right. No official creed was established as Rupp advocated unconditional freedom of conscience and free ethical-religious self-determination of the individual, which included the pursuit of self-awareness and truth.

In 1848 Julius Rupp gave a speech in honour of those killed in the March Revolution, which attracted nationwide attention. In 1849 he was an independent member of the Prussian parliament and in 1862/63 he represented the Fortschrittspartei (Progressive Party) in parliament.

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Although I think I know that I lacked my grandfather’s religious strength, what stayed with me was a feeling of reverence for his teaching, his personality and the community he created. I would say that I, being their descendant, felt in me […] the presence of both my grandfather and my father. My father was closest to me as he guided me towards Socialism – in the sense of longing for a brotherhood of men. But behind this was Rupp, the person with the connection […] to God. The religious man«.
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Arthur Bonus, 1924; from: Bonus-Jeep, Sechzig Jahre Freundschaft

Carl Schmidt (1825-1898) with his wife Katharina Schmidt, née Rupp (1837-1925), c. 1858, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Carl Schmidt (1825–1898)
Käthe Kollwitz’ father had republican leanings and studied law. During the Revolution of 1848 he tried to join the Hungarians in their fight for freedom. In 1853 he was forced to abandon his career as a lawyer as a result of his membership of the Freie evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Community). He subsequently did an apprenticeship in masonry and became a successful building contractor.

In 1860 he married Katharina Rupp (1837-1925), the eldest daughter of Julius Rupp. After Julius’ death in 1884 Carl took over his office as a preacher. In 1887 Carl Schmidt joined the SPD (Social Democrats).

Looking back, Käthe Kollwitz remembered how her father read works by the revolutionary poets of the Vormärz – the age of Metternich – to the children:

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My father sometimes read out aloud to us. Once he read (…) ›Die Toten und die Lebenden‹ by Freiligrath. This poem left an indelible impression on me. Street battles – Father and Konrad joining the fight (…), those were heroic fantasies.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Erinnerungen, (Diaries, Reminiscences,) 1923

Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932), painting by Käthe Kollwitz, not extant, c. 1886/87, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Konrad Schmidt (1863–1932)
Käthe Kollwitz elder brother studied national economics in Berlin and took his degree at Königsberg University in 1886 with a thesis comparing Johann Karl Rodbertus’ and Karl Marx’ theories on wage and exploitation.

From 1887 he paid several visits to the philosopher, sociologist and entrepreneur Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). The two men started a frequent exchange of letters and Konrad Schmidt, enthusiastic about the ideas of the international and German workers’ movement, joined the SPD.

Being a socialist and dissident, Konrad Schmidt was initially unable to pursue a career at the university. It was only from 1890 that he worked as a private lecturer at the University of Zurich and as an editor of the economics section at the Züricher Post. From 1895 he worked sporadically for the social-democratic weekly Vorwärts, and from 1908 for the monthly journal Sozialistische Monatshefte. He unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for the Reichstag in 1898. In 1919 he was appointed professor of national economics at the Berlin Polytechnic.

Konrad Schmidt was an enthusiastic supporter of Naturalism in literature and in 1897 he took over the directorship at the Berlin Freie Volksbühne theatre which he had co-founded in 1890. The aim of this theatre association – independent of the board of censors – was to give the proletariat access to the theatre and not to be exclusively dominated by aesthetic aspects when staging a play.

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[Konrad] had a profound influence on me – particularly during my developmental period – and affected my choice of reading matter.«
Käthe Kollwitz, personal data sheet for the biographer Ludwig Kemmerer, 1922/23, Kunstsammlung der Veste Coburg

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History

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was the first to be appointed chancellor of the Norddeutscher Bund (North German Confederation), founded in 1866.

Five years later, on 18 January 1871, Wilhelm I of Prussia (1797-1888) was acclaimed German Kaiser in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Thus the first German nation-state under Prussian leadership was created and comprised the Norddeutscher Bund and four south German states. Otto von Bismarck became the first chancellor of the German Reich.

After the revolution in 1848, women’s rights had become very limited and non-governmental organisations were established. In 1867 the Verein Berliner Künstlerinnen und Kunstfreundinnen (Association of Women artists and art lovers) was founded as the oldest and most renowned professional organisation for women artists in German-speaking countries. A year later, this association opened the first painting and drawing school for women in Berlin.

1870

Vita

Lisbeth Schmidt (1870-1963), c. 1890, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of Lisbeth Schmidt (1870-1963), Käthe Kollwitz’ sister.

Käthe and Lisbeth had a very close relationship, and as a young woman Lisbeth was frequently the artist’s model. In 1893 Lisbeth married the Jewish engineer Dr Georg Stern (1867-1934) from Königsberg. The couple moved to Berlin, just as Käthe Kollwitz did after her marriage. Her daughters were the physician Regula Stern (1884-1980), Hanna Stern (1896-1988), who later adopted the stage name Johanna Hofer, and the actresses Katharina Stern (1897-1984) and Maria Matray (1907-1993).

Lisbeth wrote for the arts section of the Sozialistische Monatshefte where her eulogy on the 50th birthday of Käthe Kollwitz was published in 1917. She wrote two other insightful articles on her sister – in 1920 for the Freie Welt and in 1927, on the occasion of the artist’s 60th birthday, for the Vorwärts.

1875

Vita

The Schmidt children; from left to right: Käthe, Lisbeth, Konrad, Julie, c. 1880, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

In the second half of the 1870s Carl Schmidt (1825-1898), Käthe’s father, converted his building firm into a cooperative society. Soon afterwards he sold the company and the family moved into a flat in the upmarket Königsstrasse in Königsberg.

In the summer holidays, the family spent time at the seaside resort of Rauschen on the Baltic Sea. 

History

At a party convention in Gotha (22-27 May), the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei (SDAP) and the Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (ADAV) merged to form the Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei (SAP).

The history painter Anton von Werner (1843-1915), the artist favoured by Wilhelm II, was appointed director of the Academy of Fine Arts – the so-called Berliner Akademie. Von Werner rejected modern styles such as Naturalism and Impressionism.

Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905) finished his painting »Iron Mill« – the first German large-scale depiction of industrial life.

1878

Vita

Kollwitz’ youngest brother Benjamin Schmidt died of meningitis.

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In this house [the flat in Königsstrasse] my mother gave painful birth to her last, much loved child who was given the name of Benjamin, according to my father’s wish. This child also only lived for one year and died of meningitis, like the oldest child. This time has left a very strong impression on me. […] When he [her grandfather Julius Rupp] emerged [from the room] he approached Konrad and said something very serious to him. In my memories his words were something like ›You see how transitory everything is?‹ […] This is my first conscious memory of him.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Erinnerungen, (Diaries, Reminiscences,) 1923

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History

Assassination attempt on Kaiser Wilhelm I (1897-1888).

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Bismarck used the assassination attempt to dissolve parliament and enforce a law Against the socially dangerous ambitions of Social Democracy. This Sozialistengesetz came into effect in 1878 and its objective was to eradicate Social Democracy, and until 1890 social democratic, socialist and communist associations, meetings and printed publications were made a punishable offence. Individuals were, however, still allowed to stand for the SPD in the Reichstag and regional parliaments.

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1881

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz had her first lessons in drawing. Her teacher was the copperplate engraver Rudolf Mauer (1845-1905) who taught beginners’ classes for free-hand drawing and evening classes for drawing after plaster casts at the Königsberg Academy. Later, Käthe Kollwitz had additional lessons with the painter Friedrich Naujok (no reliable biographical data).

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Her training as an artist was the result of her father’s commitment.

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Sadly, I was a girl, but he [her father] was still determined. As I was not a very attractive girl, he thought that love matters would not thwart my career. […] My first lessons were with the copperplate engraver Mauer. There were one or two other girls in his class, I think. We drew heads after plaster casts and models.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Erinnerungen, (Diaries, Reminiscences,) 1923

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Käthe Kollwitz and her sisters were given great freedom by their parents compared with other middle-class girls of that time. They had free access to the family’s library and Käthe read Schiller and Goethe. She held the latter in high esteem all her life.

In the afternoon, she and her younger sister Lisbeth (1870-1963) strolled through Königsberg and the city’s docklands. These rambles laid the foundation stone for her later artistic exploration of the world of the working classes.

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We strolled through the entire city, left the gates, took a ferry across the Pregel and explored the harbour. Then we stood and watched the bag carriers, the loading and unloading of the ships. […] We knew where the grain ships were anchored, with the sailors on deck wearing sheepskin coats and rags wrapped around their feet. They were Russians or Lithuanians – good-natured people. In the evening they played the accordion on their flat boats and danced to the music. […] These rambles through the dense port city with its many workers are the reason why my later works were entirely inspired by the world of workers for a time.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Erinnerungen, (Diaries, Reminiscences,) 1923

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History

The first public telephone exchange was opened in Berlin. It had 48 connections and was the first local telephone network in Germany.

The worldwide first electric tram was put into service in Lichterfelde near Berlin.

1883

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Arthur Schopenhauer, 1883, drawing

Käthe Kollwitz first extant drawing shows a half-length portrait of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) after a model.

1885

Vita

Karl Kollwitz, c. 1885, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

1884 or 1885: Secret engagement of the artist with Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940).

Karl Kollwitz, a student of medicine, had been friends with Käthe’s brother Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932) since their school days. He was a member of the Freie evangelische Gemeinde.

Karl Kollwitz finished his degree course at the Albertus Magnus University in Königsberg and obtained his doctorate in medicine. In 1891, after marrying Käthe Kollwitz, he opened a surgery as an accredited general practitioner in the Berlin working-class district of Prenzlauer Berg.

In 1913 he co-founded the Social Democratic Association of Physicians and became a member of the Jugendfürsorgeausschuss (Youth Welfare Committee) in the Prenzlauer Berg district. After the November revolution in 1919 he became an SPD town councillor and was involved in local politics in Berlin.

Work

Creation of the first ›narrative‹ drawings.

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Käthe Kollwitz created – among other similar works – a drawing after the painting »Luther burning the bull of excommunication« (1853) by Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808-1880) and a depiction of the working-class world based on the poem »The Emigrants« by Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876), which was romantic in tone rather than using social criticism. None of these early works of the artist have been preserved.

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Almost all my early drawings were anecdotal, capturing all manner of things that happened either in reality or in my imagination. So even then there was an element of ›examination of life‹ ...«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 5 March 1917

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History

Publication of the novel »Germinal« by Emile Zola (1840-1902).

1886

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, her mother Katharina Schmidt (1837-1925) and her sister Lisbeth (1870-1963) travelled to the Engadin via Berlin and Munich.

In Erkner, near Berlin, she met the young Naturalist writer Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946).

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Hauptmann had made friends with her sister Julie and her husband Paul Hofferichter who lived in that area.

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Hauptmann […] was not yet famous and had just written the ›Promethidenlos‹ […] I remember we were sitting in a large room that was festively decorated. There were a few steps leading into the garden. There was Hauptmann himself, his wife, the painter Hugo Ernst Schmidt, Arno Holz and my brother Konrad. It was an evening that had a lasting effect on us. There was a long table strewn with roses in the large room. We all had rose wreaths on our heads and drank wine. Hauptmann read a passage from Julius Caesar [by Shakespeare] We were all entranced, young as we were. It was a wonderful prelude to a life that slowly, but steadily unfolded for me.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick, (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

In Munich, another stage on her journey, she visited the Alte Pinakothek. She was particularly fascinated by the works of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Later, during her time studying at the Munich Art Academy for Women (1886-90), she was to draw the figure of the breastfeeding satyr woman from Rubens’ »Drunken Silenus«.

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An then, at the Pinakothek, I saw the works of the masters of whom one made an especially strong impression that was to last for years to come – Rubens. I was entranced by him. And what a treasure of Rubens paintings there were in Munich! […] I had a small volume of Goethe’s works then and when I was completely enraptured I just wrote on the margin: Rubens! Rubens!«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

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In 1886/87 she attended Karl Stauffer-Bern’s (1857-1891) painting classes at the Berlin Academy for Women Artists.

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This Swiss painter, graphic artist and sculptor initially made a name for himself in Berlin as a realist portrait painter when he had finished his studies at the academy. In 1884 his friend Peter Halm introduced him to etching techniques and in 1886 he began to take an interest in sculpting. From 1888 he worked exclusively as a sculptor.

He first introduced Käthe Kollwitz to portrait studies, but soon he had her re-focus on drawing as she still lacked some important basics.

The artist later referred to Karl Stauffer-Bern as »the teacher to whom I perhaps owe everything«:

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I only studied with him for one winter, but these few months laid the foundations. I am still grateful that he led me back to drawing again and again when I wanted to do painting.«
Unpublished letter to Peter Hahn, 28 July 1927, original at the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

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At the Berlin Academy of Art of Women Käthe Kollwitz met Beate Jeep (1865-1954) who became a close friend and often gave her advice on many of her works.

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In 1895, Beate Jeep marries Arthur Bonus, the one year older priest and writer. The couple had a lifelong friendship with Käthe and Karl Kollwitz.

After Käthe Kollwitz’ death, Beate Bonus-Jeep immortalised their friendship in the book Sechzig Jahre Freundschaft (Sixty years of friendship) with Käthe Kollwitz. The book was published in 1984 by Karl Rauch Verlag.

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History

The Strike Decree of 11 April 1886 by the Prussian minister of the interior, Robert Victor von Puttkamer (1828-1900) acknowledged the right to form coalitions and organise industrial action. Strikes including Social Democratic agitation were, however, classified as political and thus illegal. Thus a stricter application of the Sozialistengesetz was re-introduced in Prussia after its implementation had been somewhat relaxed between 1881 and 1886.
 

1887

Vita

After her return to Berlin, Käthe Kollwitz had lessons in genre and portrait painting with Emil Neide (1843-1908).

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Emil Neide was a painter of renown in East Prussia and an Academy professor. He was involved in the decoration of the main lecture hall at Königsberg University and the assembly halls of several grammar schools in Insterburg and Königsberg where he contributed mythological themes and representations from Prussian history.

Käthe Kollwitz’ father had plans to have his daughter trained in history painting, which was regarded as the most sophisticated genre, but was also an exclusively male domain. Käthe Kollwitz, however, rejected conservative Wilhelminian history painting. Her focus of interest was on the exploration and depiction of everyday life. The only work by Emil Neide that she appreciated was the matter-of-fact genre painting »At the Crime Scene« (c. 1886) which shows the discovery of a murder victim’s body.

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After my return to Königsberg, the Academy professor Neide became my teacher and eventually I was permitted to paint ›real pictures‹. It was a tedious time and I was seriously fed up with painting. Then my parents intervened in a way for which I’m still extremely grateful – they sent me to Munich for two years.«
Käthe Kollwitz, letter of 29 August 1901 to Max Lehrs, from: Briefe der Freundschaft  (Letters of Friendship)

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The Schmidt family experienced the effects of the Anti-Socialist Laws when the police searched their flat.

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Her brother, Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932) had visited Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) in London. A shipment of books from England was found to contain Social Democratic publications which were illegal in Germany. A charge against him was, however, dropped.

Shortly afterwards, Konrad and his father joined the Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP). Käthe Kollwitz could not yet join as membership of a political party was forbidden for women. Since these events, however, she felt connected to the Social Democratic movement and later she referred to her father as the person who had guided her towards Socialism.
Her fiancé, Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940), was also a Social Democrat.

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Geschichte

The inventor Emil Berliner (1851-1929) took out a patent for the gramophone.

1888

Vita

In July, Käthe’s parents publicly announced the engagement of their daughter to the prospective physician Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940).

Ludwig Herterich’s painting class in Munich, c. 1889, Käthe Kollwitz, seated, 2nd from the right, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

From October onwards Käthe Kollwitz took classes with Ludwig Herterich (1856-1932) at the Munich Art Academy for Women where she stayed for two years.

Herterich had acquired particular renown as a portrait artist and painter of monumental scenes and was a leading representative of the Munich School. His treatment of colour, which combined the artistic device of tone-on-tone painting with the lighter colour range used by naturalistic plein-air painters, was still unfamiliar for the young artist Käthe Kollwitz.

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[Herterich’s] decidedly colouristic art did not chime with my feelings or my way of seeing colours. I used a trick to become one of his more respected pupils by painting in such a manner as I knew he wanted me to paint. […] During the day we were busy with our work, and in the evening we enjoyed ourselves, going to beer cellars, exploring the surrounding area and feeling free, as we had our own keys to the dormitory.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

In Munich, Käthe Kollwitz enjoyed the free life of an artist. Together with students from the Munich Academy she took part in private evening painting sessions that were organised by pupils from the Academy for Women. This was the only opportunity for the young women to practice multi-figure compositions.

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A particular theme was set for these evenings. I remember the theme ›Fight‹. I chose a scene from [Emile Zola’s novel] ›Germinal‹ where two men fight over young Cathérine in a smoky tavern. My composition was met with approval. For the first time, I felt that my work was acknowledged and in my mind new vistas opened up. I couldn’t sleep that night because of my anticipation of happiness.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

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While Käthe Kollwitz was studying in Munich, naturalistic plein-air painting with depictions of scenes from the lives of ordinary people began to assert itself. Its leading representatives were Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911) and Max Liebermann (1847-1935).

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After finishing her studies in Munich and influenced by the art of Max Liebermann, who had a formative influence on Käthe Kollwitz, she began to represent characteristic situations of working-class life – initially without any social criticism. Looking back, she wrote:

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My entire work pointed towards Socialism […] This was brought about by the attitudes of my father and my brother, by the entire literature of that period. However, the real motivation […] for choosing almost exclusively scenes from working-class life was that the motifs from that sphere of life […] conveyed the things that I found beautiful. […] I just want to emphasise […] that initially compassion and empathy played a very small role in my motivation to depict the life of the proletariat. It was rather because I simply found it beautiful. As Zola or somebody once said: ›Le beau c`est le laid.‹«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

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In Munich, Käthe Kollwitz occupied herself for the first time with the issue of women’s rights.

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She encountered the same theme in the print cycle »A Life« by Max Klinger (1857-1920), published in 1884. This was the first work by Klinger that she came across during her studies in Berlin. The print cycle »A Love«, completed in 1887, which she probably saw in 1888 at the International Exhibition at the Glaspalast in Munich, also takes up this theme.

The students at the Art Academy for Women were enthusiastic about the Naturalist writers Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910), above all because of their attitude towards the emancipation of women.

Käthe Kollwitz was also confirmed in her views by the Social Democratic politician August Bebel (1840-1913) whose speech she heard during a convention and whose book Die Frau und der Sozialismus she read. With 52 editions and numerous translations, this book was the best seller of socialist literature in the 19th century.

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Werk

Käthe Kollwitz, Two Men Fighting in a Tavern, charcoal and brown chalk, stumped, pen and sepia on manila paper, 1888, Print Room, Dresden, NT 9

Works on the theme of gender debate.

First preparatory drawings on the fight scene from the novel Germinal by Emile Zola (1840-1902) in which two men fight over Cathérine – like in »Two Men Fighting in a Tavern«, NT 9 – ignore the social criticism of the novel and instead explore a drama of jealousy that is not at the centre of the plot.

Käthe Kollwitz, A Woman’s Destiny (Martyrdom of the Woman), c. 1889, pen and ink on laid paper, washed, Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln, NT (17a)

Other early works such as the pen and ink drawing »A Woman’s Destiny«, NT (17a), addressed the misery that women experienced as a result of unwanted pregnancy. This was also a reference to the fate of Gretchen in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749-1832) Faust.

This theme was taken up again in 1893 or earlier in the etching »Woman at the Church Wall«, Kn 17, and was used again in the late 1890s in a lithograph and an etching.

History

In the so-called Dreikaiserjahr (year of the three emperors) Wilhelm I (1797-1888) died on 9 March. After Friedrich III (1831-1888), who died on 15 June from cancer after 99 days on the throne, Wilhelm II (1859-1941) became German Kaiser.

On 18 February the Anti-Socialism Law was extended for the last time.

1890

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, Self-portrait, head supported, 1889-91, pen and ink in blackish-brown on laid paper, NT 25, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After her return from Munich, the artist rented her first studio in Königsberg.

She was a reader of the Berliner-Volks-Tribüne, the only Social-Democratic newspaper not made illegal by the Anti-Socialism Law. Her brother Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932) was the paper’s main editor for a brief period.

Werk

Käthe Kollwitz, Tavern in Königsberg, 1893, pen and black ink, grey wash, NT (52a), Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Kollwitz planned to execute the »Fight Scene«, NT 9, from the novel Germinal by Emile Zola (1840-1902) as a painting on canvas. She had drawn this scene in Munich in 1888. For this purpose she made preparatory interior studies in taverns in Königsberg that were frequented by sailors. An example is »Tavern in Königsberg«, NT (52a), a pen and ink drawing with grey wash.

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This time […] I rented a small studio […] because I wanted to execute the scene from ›Germinal‹ on canvas. For this purpose, I needed to make studies. At that time Königsberg had a number of sailors’ taverns in the old Pregel districts. It was extremely dangerous to go there in the evening. It was only possible to make these studies in the late morning. I found the ›Schiffchen‹ the most interesting tavern. It had two exits. You could hear a terrible noise from inside. Stabbings happened on a daily basis.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

Later, however, she decided to execute the scene as an etching and for this purpose her first teacher, Rudolf Mauer, introduced her to printing techniques.

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I have started to do etchings and have therefore made a lot of preparatory pen and ink drawings. I generally do far more drawings than paintings these days. This is simply practical thinking as I will hardly have enough money in the first few years of my marriage to be able to rent a studio. And the thought of painting in oil in a small flat that you live in is depressing. Making etchings is far less inconvenient.«
Käthe Kollwitz, letter of 26 February 1891 to Paul Hey, from: Briefe der Freundschaft (Letters of Friendship)

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History

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was released by Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) from his position as Chancellor, followed by a departure from Bismarck’s alliance policy.

The Anti-Socialism Law was not extended. Despite the introduction of the law in 1878, the Social Democrats tripled the number of followers to just under 1.5 million.

The Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP) became the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) under August Bebel (1840-1913).

1891 - 1900

1891

Vita

The house of the Kollwitz family in Weissenburger Str. 25, before November 1942, photographer unknown, historical postcard

Marriage of Käthe and Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940) on 21 June.

That same year, the couple moved from Königsberg to Berlin, where Dr med Karl Kollwitz opened a surgery in the working-class district of Prenzlauer Berg. Under the German health insurance scheme, he had been allocated to tailors’ insurance. In Berlin Käthe Kollwitz was closely confronted with the deprivation that was rife in the city and which she also saw in her husband’s patients. In her art, she soon focused on socially critical themes.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, scene from Germinal, 1893, line etching, dry-point and emery, Kn 19 III b, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist began to take up her work on a print series on the novel Germinal by Emile Zola (1840-1902).
She created three etchings on the theme: the »Scene from Germinal«, Kn 19 III b, originally conceived as a drawing in Munich, which represents a drama of jealousy between two men and Cathérine, as well as a »Conspiracy Scene«, Kn 10 and Kn 11, in two versions.

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These works, like almost all the etchings during her lifetime, were printed at the Hofkupferei Felsing in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg. The firm, which existed from 1797 to 1965, was managed by Wilhelm Felsing (1868-1940) between 1892 and 1940 and its clients included, alongside Käthe Kollwitz, Karl Stauffer-Bern, Max Klinger, Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt, Emil Nolde and Heinrich Zille.

In 1893 Käthe Kollwitz abandoned work on the Germinal series to focus on her cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt«.

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history

German legislation was changed to improve the protection of workers. It regulated the maximum number of working hours, introduced a general ban on Sunday work and abolished factory work for children under 13.

At its party convention in Erfurt, the SPD explicitly included the demand for women’s voting rights in its programme.

Publication of Max Klinger’s (1857-1920) Malerei und Zeichnung (Painting and Drawing) – an art theoretical paper

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Kollwitz probably read the paper in the year of its publication. Later, the artist remembered how she became aware that »I’m not a painter at all« (Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941) while reading the essay.
She increasingly focused on graphic art.

In Klinger’s paper Käthe Kollwitz found a general rationale for an artist to explore the negative sides of life in graphic art. Apart from that, Klinger’s publication was hardly of any relevance for her later socio-critical works as Klinger’s understanding of the kind of criticism that a graphic artist should convey did not include social criticism. In this, he was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view of life.

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1892

Vita

Hans Kollwitz as a student, 1913, photographer unknown, Kollwitz Estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of her first son, Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971).

The artist’s eldest son became a school physician in 1928 and later head of department for pandemic diseases in Berlin. After World War II, he retired early to devote his time to his mother’s work.

Hans Kollwitz was the first to publish selections of her diaries and letters. He supported exhibitions and published a book with photographs of Käthe Kollwitz’ sculptural works.

history

Secret military alliance between France and Russia.

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The non-renewal of the Reinsurance Treaty with the German Reich results – subsequent to the secret military alliance – in a formal treaty of alliance on 4 January 1894. This consequently led to the war on two fronts scenario that Bismarck had always been afraid of and was one of the factors leading to the First World War.

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Foundation of the art association Vereinigung der XI in Berlin

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Alongside the Münchner Secession – also founded in 1892 – this group of artists was among the most important German associations to abandon the conservative official art scene. The Vereinigung der XI was an important precursor of the Berliner Secession.

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1893

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz’ younger sister Lisbeth Schmidt (1870-1963) married the Jewish engineer Dr Georg Stern (1867-1934) from Königsberg. Like Käthe and Karl Kollwitz, the couple took up residence in Berlin.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Hans Kollwitz with a candle, 1895, pen and ink over pencil on paper, NT 115, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Start of the artist’s work on the cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« (1893-1897).

Almost 40 preparatory drawings for the Weavers cycle have been preserved. The ink drawing »Hans Kollwitz with a Candle« (1895), NT 115, a detail study for folio 2 in the series, is among the most impressive individual works and early proof that the artist often used her two sons as models.

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Strongly impressed by the premiere of the Naturalistic drama The Weavers by Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), Käthe Kollwitz abandoned her work on a cycle on Germinal by Emile Zola (1840-1902) and started on the six-folio print cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« which she finished in 1897.

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There was an important event at that time – the premiere of Hauptmann’s Weavers at the ›Freie Bühne‹ theatre. […] I was there, burning with excited anticipation and interest. The play left a huge impression on me. The best actors were involved […]. In the evening, there was a festive get-together of a lot of people in the course of which Hauptmann was praised to the skies as a role model for the young generation. The performance was a milestone in my career. The ›Germinal‹ cycle, which I had already begun, was abandoned and I focused on the Weavers.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

The fact that the study »Hans Kollwitz with a Candle« was made as a preparatory work in pen and ink for the second folio »Death«, tells us that it must have been made at an early stage when the artist was still planning to execute the entire cycle as etchings. However, the execution of the deep black shadows in ink as an intaglio print – for example as an aquatint etching – still caused Kollwitz such serious problems at that time that she eventually decided to execute the first three folios of the print cycle as lithographs and only the last three folios as etchings.

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Käthe Kollwitz, At the Church Wall, 1893, lone etching, dry-point and brush etching, Kn 17 III, Cologne Kollwitz collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

First participation of Käthe Kollwitz in exhibitions.


She exhibited the etchings »Welcome«, Kn 13, and »At the Tavern«, Kn 15, at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition. At the same time she was represented at the Free Berlin Art Exhibition with the etching »At the Church Wall«, Kn 17, and with two pastels which are no longer traceable.

At the Free Berlin Art Exhibition the critic and collector Julius Elias (1861-1927) became aware of the artist and wrote an appreciation of her works in his exhibition critique in the magazine Die Nation.

History

The founding congress of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of the Kingdom of Poland took place in Warsaw. Among the founding members of the banned party was Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919).

Publication of the first issue of the magazine Die Frau – a monthly Magazine for all the aspects of life of women in our times. Its editor was the teacher and women’s rights activist Helene Lange (1848-1930).

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) started work on four paintings and one lithograph entitled »The Scream« (1893-1910).

1894

Vita

Regula Stern (1894-1980), 1912, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of Käthe Kollwitz’ niece Regula Stern (1894-1980).
The eldest daughter of Lisbeth and Georg, Käthe Kollwitz’ sister and brother-in-law, was an actress. She gave up her acting career in 1922 to become a physician. Being half Jewish, she had to close her surgery in Berlin under the Nazis and was only allowed to work as a nursing auxiliary. Regula Stern gave Karl and Käthe Kollwitz medical care when they were old. After 1945 Regula Stern started working as a doctor again.

History

In Berlin, the Association of German Women’s Clubs was founded under the aegis of Auguste Schmidt (1833-1902). This umbrella organisation of the middle-class women’s movement aimed at improving communicative networking among the clubs.

1896

Vita

Peter Kollwitz as a student, 1913, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of her second son, Peter Kollwitz (1896-1914).
Käthe and Karl Kollwitz’ youngest son wanted to become an artist. He finished school with a secondary school leaving certificate and in 1912 he enrolled on a training course at the Berlin Museum of Applied Art. In the summer holidays of 1914 Peter and Hans Koch (1897-1995), Erich Kremms (1898-1916) and Richard Noll (d. 1916) embarked on a hiking tour of Norway where Peter learned of the outbreak of the war. This news led the friends to consider volunteering.
Peter Kollwitz was killed on 22 October 1914 near Dixmuide in Belgium.

Hanna Stern (1896-1988), 1912, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of Kollwitz’ niece Johanna (Hanna) Stern (1896-1988).
The second daughter of Kollwitz’ sister Lisbeth had the stage name Johanna Hofer. Even while still studying to become an actress, Max Reinhardt engaged her for the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. She married her second husband, the actor and director Fritz Kortner, with whom she emigrated to the US in 1933. In 1948 she returned to Germany and had a large number of major roles on stage and TV.

Work

Kollwitz created a lithograph of her son’s portrait »Hans Kollwitz«, Kn 39.

History

Adoption of the first German civil code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) by the German parliamen.

1897

Vita

Katta Stern (1897-1988), 1919, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of Käthe Kollwitz’ niece Katharina Stern (1897-1988).
The third daughter of Lisbeth and Georg Stern had a successful career as a dancer under the pseudonym Katta Stern. From 1933, under the Nazi regime, she was prohibited from performing in Germany. Her husband, Walter Herrendörfer (1900 – d. in WW II) was drafted into Organisation Todt (a civil and military engineering organisation using forced labour). As her application for emigration to the US was turned down she had to retire from public life and lived together with her mother whom she looked after until her death.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, March of the Weavers, folio 4 from the cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« (1893-1897), line etching and emery, Kn 36, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Completion of the cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« (1893-1897).
The first presentation of this print cycle was received very well at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung in 1898 and she became a young artist of considerable renown.

1898

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, Storming the Gate, folio 5 from the cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« (1893-1897), line etching and emery, Kn 37, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln


Käthe Kollwitz had an artistic breakthrough with her cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« (1893-1897) at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung.
Max Liebermann (1847-1935), a member of the awards jury, made sure that the artist was recommended to Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) for a medal. Due to the socially critical content of the cycle, however, the Kaiser rejected the recommendation stating: »This would mean a disparagement of any high distinction. Decorations and medals have their place on the chests of men of merit.«

From 1898 to 1903 Käthe Kollwitz worked as a teacher for etching and drawing at the Berlin School for Women Artists.

Work

Lecture hall of the print room in the museum building by Gottfried Semper, in the background on the right: Max Lehrs, 1913 © SLUB / Deutsche Fotothek

The Dresden Print Room under the directorship of Max Lehrs (1855-1938) was the first public collection to start acquiring works by Kollwitz. The art historian Lehrs subsequently became one of the most important patrons of Käthe Kollwitz. There is evidence that a total of 177 prints and 22 drawings were bought until Lehrs’ retirement.

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Max Lehrs took over the directorship of the Dresden Print Room in 1896. From 1905 (?) to 1908 he was the director of the Berlin Print Room and from 1908 until his retirement in 1924 he was again in charge of the print collection in Dresden.

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history

The First Naval Agreement came into force.

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The naval agreements were the legal basis in the German Reich for the expansion of the imperial navy before the First World War. This statutorily regulated expansion of the navy with the aim of turning it into a powerful high seas fleet led to a German-British arms race and is regarded as one of the causes of the First World War.

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Foundation of the Berlin Secession

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The foundation of the Berlin Secession under the aegis of Max Liebermann (1847-1935) was conceived as a counter-organisation to the conservative Verein Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists). It was the first organisation in Berlin to admit women artists.
It broke up as a result of disagreement over the selection of the works of 25 members for the 1913 exhibition. The majority of its members, among them Käthe Kollwitz and the entire executive committee, left the organisation and founded the Freie Secession in 1914 whose members included Max Liebermann, Max Slevogt and Paul Cassirer.

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1899

Vita

At the instigation of Max Lehrs (1855-1938) and Max Klinger (1857-1920), Kollwitz was awarded a small golden medal at the Deutsche Kunstausstellung (German Art Exhibition) in Dresden.

Werk

Participation in the first exhibition of the Berlin Secession.

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The fact that Kollwitz was a member of the Berlin Secession enabled her to take part in numerous exhibitions in Germany and abroad. She managed to present two of her works at the 5th Exhibition of the Vienna Secession where the Albertina acquired the folio »The End«, Kn 38, from the Weavers cycle which became the cornerstone for its Kollwitz collection.

It is certain that Kollwitz owed the invitation to join the Berlin Secession to Max Liebermann (1847-1935) who was the director of this organisation which had been founded in the previous year. The Berlin Secession was the first German association of artists to stage Black-and-White Exhibitions from 1901 onwards as a result of a growing interest in artists’ etchings and drawings. Until the dissolution of the Berlin Secession in 1913 Käthe Kollwitz regularly participated in its exhibitions.

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Käthe Kollwitz, Welcome, 1892, line etching and drypoint, Kn 13 I, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The publication of Kollwitz’ etching »Welcome«, Kn 13, in the magazine Pan representated an appreciation of her work at an early stage in her career. Her original choice for the publication was a self-portrait as a colour lithograph, Kn 46. As this work – her very first colour lithograph – failed to meet her expectations, she eventually submitted the etching »Welcome« which was created in 1892 on the occasion of the birth of her son Hans.
The Pan magazine for art, poetry, theatre and music, founded in Berlin in 1895, with original prints enclosed, was an important voice of German Art Nouveau.

Käthe Kollwitz, Uprising, 1899, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, brush etching, emery and roulette, Kn 46 VI d, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The etching »Uprising«, Kn 46, was Käthe Kollwitz’ first exploration of the Peasants War theme.


The etching with an allegorical personification of ›Liberty‹ leading the fighters on the barricades was originally also published under the title »Peasants’ War« and probably renamed when the eponymous cycle was published in 1908.

1901 - 1913

1901

Vita

From 1901 to 1913 Käthe Kollwitz was a member of the Berlin Secession.

The artist made her first visit to Paris, visited galleries and exhibitions and met the painter and graphic artist Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923).

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The art dealer and collector Otto Ackermann (1889-1956), the husband of her fellow student Maria Slavona (1865-1931), introduced Kollwitz to Paris art galleries. She bought a pastel by the young Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) entitled »La Bête« (1900) at Ambroise Vollard and saw works by the Nabis, the Impressionists and other French artists. She later said that Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and the Impressionists had exerted a strong influence on her.

She also visited Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923) whom she venerated as a Naturalist painter close to her own artistic ideals. She showed him a proof of her recently finished etching »Carmagnole«, Kn 51.

After Steinlen’s death in 1924 she wrote a eulogy for the Sozialistische Monatshefte magazine:

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The working class […] has its own special beauty […] which manifests itself particularly strongly in Paris. […] [It is inherent] in the gestures, language, clothing of the workers, the working class masses […]. Steinlen was so deeply steeped in it that his works only revolve around this one theme. Not with a socio-ethical message in mind (that was a motif that was added later), but simply because he enjoyed presenting his Parisians in all their guises, wherever and in whatever situations he encountered them.
Käthe Kollwitz on Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, in: Sozialistische Monatshefte, 22 January 1924

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Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Carmagnole, 1910, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, brush etching and emery, Kn 51, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

She created the large-scale etching »Carmagnole«, Kn 51, which became her calling card.
La Carmagnole is a battle song from the French Revolution that became popular when Carmagnola was taken in 1792. Each stanza ends with the refrain Dansons la Carmagnole / Vive le son du canon (Let us dance the Carmagnole / Long live the sound of the canon).
A passage from Charles Dickens’ (1812-1870) novel »A Tale Of Two Cities«, published in 1859, probably served as a literary inspiration.

After reading the »General History of the Great Peasants War« by Wilhelm Zimmermann (1807-1878) (probably the later illustrated popular edition of 1891) she began work on her second print cycle »Peasants’ War« (1901-1908).

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As early as 1899 she had explored the theme in the individual folio »Uprising«, Kn 46. She originally planned to execute her later print cycle on the »Peasants’ War« as colour lithographs, but abandoned that plan in 1902 in favour of a series of etchings.

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First participation in exhibitions in Paris at the Charles Hessèle gallery and in London at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers.

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It is possible that Campbell Dodgson (1867-1948) became aware of Kollwitz at the London exhibition. Dodgson, who was also in contact with Max Lehrs (1855-1938), was an assistant and from 1912 the head of the department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum in London. He began to privately collect works of graphic art by contemporary artists, including Käthe Kollwitz. Dodgson later donated his outstanding collection to the British Museum.

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History

Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) gave a critical comment on trends in modern art in his famous speech on the occasion of the opening of the Berlin Siegesallee – a line of statues celebrating the House of Hohenzollern:

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If art, as is often the case these days, does nothing but depict misery and deprivation in a way that is even more appalling than in real life, it sins against the German people. Cultivating ideals is the greatest cultural task, and if we want to be and remain a model for other peoples, then all Germans must take part in this work. And if culture is to fulfil its task then it should reach down to the lowest strata of society. This is only possible if art gives a helping hand rather than sinking down into the gutter.
From: W. Schröder, Das persönliche Regiment, speeches and other public statements by Wilhelm II, Munich 1907

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In order to improve the catastrophic housing situation in Berlin, the city council founded the König-Friedrich-Stiftung and provided it with 1 million marks.

The General Assembly of Progressive Women’s Associations met in Berlin to demand better political education and occupational protection for women.

Foundation of the Wandervogelbewegung (a German youth movement) in Berlin Steglitz.

1902

Vita

After a first essay on Käthe Kollwitz by Max Lehrs (1855-1938), published in the Zukunft magazine in 1901, two more essays on the artist were published in 1902 – by Charles Loeser (1864-1928) in the Sozialistische Monatshefte and by Anna Plehn (no biographical data available) in Kunst für alle.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Charge, folio 5 from the cycle »Peasants’ War«, 1902/03, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, reservage, vernis mou with screen printing of two meshes and Ziegler transfer paper, Kn 70 VIII b, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Kollwitz started work on the large-scale etching »Charge«, Kn 70, for the »Peasants’ War« cycle and the same year she presented a proof of the etching at the Black-and-White Exhibition of the Berlin Secession.

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I think that the Peasants War is my best work and am rather pleased with it.«
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Max Lehrs of 6 March 1903, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich

The woman who spurs on the peasants in this folio was inspired by the ›Schwarze Hofmännin‹ - one of the few historically documented women in the Peasants’ War – who blessed and encouraged the peasants before they stormed the town of Weinsberg.
Kollwitz read about the woman in Wilhelm Zimmermann’s (1807-1878) »General History of the Great Peasants War«. Early drawings and prints suggest that she had planned to devote the entire cycle to this woman who frequently appeared in novels about the Peasants War around 1900, but who was otherwise historically undocumented.

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Friedrich Lippmann (1838-1903), director of the Berlin Print Room from 1876, acquired the cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt« as well as several individual prints.

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Today, the Berlin collection comprises 320 prints (proofs and final versions) and 143 drawings by the artist from all phases of her work. 120 drawings were donated by Dr Hans Kollwitz in 1964.

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The New York Public Library was the first public collection in the US to acquire prints by the artist.

1903

Vita

The art historian Max Lehrs (1855-1938), director of the Dresden Print Room, published an extensive critical appraisal including a list of the 50 Kollwitz prints from the Dresden collection in the Die graphischen Künste journal.

Work

Kollwitz was given an entire wall at the winter exhibition of the Berlin Secession to present 25 of her works and provide an overview of her artistic activities.

history

The election for the German parliament saw the Zentrumspartei (Centre Party) emerge with the largest number of seats. The second-strongest political grouping was the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) (Social Democratic Party) with 81 delegates to the new parliament. From 1890 the SPD gained the majority of votes, but as a result of the way constituency boundaries were drawn, this was not reflected by the number of seats.

1904

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz became a member of the newly founded Deutscher Künstlerbund (association of artists), the umbrella organisation of the German Secessions and was frequently involved in their exhibitions.

Käthe Kollwitz, female nude, c 1904-06, charcoal, NT 318, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist visited Paris for the second time and studied at the Académie Julian for two months, presumably in the sculpting class of Raoul Verlet (1857-1923).

She visited the studios of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in Paris and Meudon with a letter of recommendation by Hugo von Tschudi (1851-1911).

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I was entranced by Paris. In the late mornings I was at the old Julian School in the sculpture class to acquaint myself with the basics of sculpting. I spent the afternoons and evenings in the museums of the city of which I was so fond, in the cellar taverns around the market halls or in the dance bars on Montmartre.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Rückblick (Diaries, Retrospection), 1941

It was above all her visit to Rodin’s studio in Meudon which left a deep and lasting impression. Her obituary for Rodin, published in 1917 in the middle of the First World War in the Sozialistische Monatshefte, summarised her memories and the importance of the artist for her own work:

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At that time there was just one artist in the entire world of contemporary sculpture – Rodin. […] What was it that made his creations so compelling, convincing and infectiously passionate? […] It was his ability to find a sculpturally convincing, substantially appropriate form for the emotional core of a theme. […] His large-scale group of lovers with their wonderfully animate hands […], his Burghers of Calais or his figure of a squatting woman – they all made me experience the strong, direct flow of excitation emanating from these works.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Obituary for Rodin, in: Sozialistische Monatshefte, issue 24, 28 November 1917

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Work

In Paris, the artist created colour pastels of the »Caveau des Innocents«, the notorious cellar taverns beneath the Paris market halls.

The Association of Historical Art commissioned Käthe Kollwitz to create the »Peasants’ War« cycle as an association gift.

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In 1904, Käthe Kollwitz approached the Association of Historical Art for funding to continue her »Peasants’ War« cycle and submitted two of her latest prints – »Charge«, Kn 70, and the individual folio »Woman with Dead Child«, Kn 81.

Max Lehrs (1855-1938), director of the Dresden Print Room, assisted her in this matter as the Association of Historical Art held their convention in Dresden in 1904 and elected him member of a committee to suggest a selection of works of graphic art. It only took Lehrs ten minutes to convince the commission to accept Kollwitz’ cycle by presenting them with the artist’s best works from the collection of the Print Room.

The Kunsthandlung Emil Richter in Dresden, who sold Kollwitz’s works as early as 1899, participated in the acquisition provided that the artist transferred the selling rights to him. Between 1908 and 1910 the art dealer secured the exclusive right to edit all new prints by the artist and in 1918 acquired almost all the existing etching and lithograph plates from Käthe Kollwitz.

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Käthe Kollwitz, self-portrait, frontal view, c 1904, chalk and brush lithograph in four colours and spraying technique, Kn 85, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The »Self-portrait, frontal view«, Kn 85, was probably executed as a colour lithograph in 1904.

Most of the artist’s lithographs, including almost all the colour lithographs, were printed by Hermann Birkholz (? – 1927) in Berlin. This includes the »Self-portrait, frontal view«, which still achieves the highest prices in the art market. The few prints of this work were acquired by her most important collectors during the lifetime of the artist. They included Erich Cohn, Campbell Dodgson, Geheimrat Helferich, Ackermann & Sauerwein, Johanna and Walter Wolf, Salman Schocken and her later editor Alexander von der Becke.

Geschichte

Great Britain and France concluded the Entente Cordiale after settling their colonial disputes.

1905

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Tavern in Hamburg, 1901, vernis mou with silk screening of ribbed laid paper, line etching and emery, Kn 55, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Exhibition of 13 works by Kollwitz at the Paris Salon des Indépendants.

Kollwitz presented the cycle »A Weavers’ Revolt«, Kn 33-38, the etching »Carmagnole«, Kn 51, »Hamburg Tavern«, Kn 55, the lithograph »Woman With Orange«, Kn 56, and at least one drawing – »Female nude, seated«, NT 170, which is today in the possession of the Getty Research Institute.

history

Alfred Graf von Schlieffen (1833-1913), German chief of general staff, submitted a secret deployment plan in the case of a war on two fronts against France and Russia. The Schieffenplan was to determine the strategy of Germany at the beginning of the First World War.

Helene Stöcker (1869-1943) founded the Association for the Protection of Mothers in Berlin. Kollwitz later gave the association some individual works. The objective of the association was the legal equality of extramarital partnerships and children born out of wedlock.

Death of the painter Adolf von Menzel (1815-1905) on 9 February.

Foundation of the Die Brücke group of artists in Dresden.

1906

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, poster of the German Cottage Industry Exhibition in Berlin in 1906, 1906, chalk and brush lithograph with spraying technique and scraper, Kn 95 III, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz designed the poster »German Cottage Industry«, Kn 95, for the eponymous exhibition in Berlin.

Berlin was the centre of the German cottage textile industry. The exhibition was an enormous success and was conceived by bourgeois social reformers and labour unions. It was the first major exhibition of its kind in Germany and aimed at drawing attention to the low wages of cottage industry workers and their catastrophic working and living conditions.

There was a rumour which came up in the Weimar Republic that the Kaiserin had refused to visit the exhibition as long as the poster was publically displayed.

Geschichte

The launch of the British battleship Dreadnought marked the beginning of an open naval arms race between Germany and Britain.

1907

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, 1906, photo: Philipp Kester, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz received the Villa Romana Prize on the occasion of the first graphic-art exhibition of the German Association of Artists.

The award, donated by Max Klinger (1857-1920), included a cash prize of 2,000 marks and an invitation for a stay of up to one year at the Villa Romana in Florence.

Käthe Kollwitz, like other award winners before her, spent only a short period at the Villa – probably a good two months.

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She wrote to her sister Lisbeth from Florence:

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Leaving this place to travel home will be easier for me than leaving Paris […]. The huge galleries are confusing […]. I therefore tried the churches and was a lot luckier. They contain marvellous frescoes. I have strolled through all the churches and monasteries […]. – Then there is the Bargello with all the Donatellos […]. His boys and young men are splendid, and his David is just beautiful. And finally I dare visit the Pitti and the Uffici again. They contain wonderful works […] The most impressive work so far has been Massaccio’s fresco in Santa Maria del Carmine which shows a nude boy kneeling among a group of stiff men. And then there is a Virgin with Child. The child sits on her lap, and the Virgin sits on the lap of Saint Anne.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Letter to Lisbeth Stern dated May 1907: Hans Kollwitz, Tagebuchblätter und Briefe (diary sheets and letters), 1948

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A hiking tour from Florence to Rome with the young, adventurous Englishwoman Constanze Harding-Krayl marked the end of her journey to Italy and was her most impressive experience.

Maria Stern (1907-1993), 1930, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of Käthe Kollwitz’ niece Maria Stern (1907-1993).
Maria Stern was the fourth and youngest child of Käthe Kollwitz’ sister Lisbeth. She became an actress, choreographer and writer. After her marriage to the Hungarian film director and actor Ernst Matray she emigrated to the US in 1933, but returned to Germany after World War II and, among other activities, wrote screenplays for TV series.

History

After agreements between Russia and Britain, France, Britain and Russia formed the Triple Entente. As a consequence, the German Reich became internationally isolated with the Austro-Hungarian Empire as its only reliable ally.

The SPD gained the majority of votes in the elections for the German parliament.

Foundation of the Deutscher Werkbund (a federation of artists and architects).

1908

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz with a copperplate, c 1910, photo: Hänse Hermann, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz’ diary entries have been preserved from 1908 onwards.
They were not intended for publication and contain the artist’s reflections on personal matters, involvement with her work, thoughts about her relationship with others and her search for her political position.
After her son Peter (1896-1914) fell at the beginning of the First World War in 1914, the thoughts she wrote down in her diary revolved continuously around an idealistic image of her sons, Peter’s sacrifice for the Fatherland and her own attitude to the situation.
The ten-volume diary (18 September 1908 to May 1943) is kept at the Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Berlin.

In 1908 her son Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) became seriously ill with diphtheria and almost died. Käthe Kollwitz tried to come to terms with this situation in a number of drawings and – above all from 1910/11 – in several etchings.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, The Prisoners, folio 7 from the cycle »Peasants War«, 1908, line etching, drypoint, emery, vernis mou with screen printing of cloth and Ziegler transfer paper, Kn 102 IX a, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Completion of the »Peasants’ War« cycle. This print series was shown in its entirety at the Great Art Exhibition in Dresden in the same year.

The cycle gave the extent of the artist’s fame an enormous boost and marks the high point and completion of her cycles of revolutionary themes. It was printed as a gift of the Association for Historical Art.

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The Kunsthandlung Emil Richter participated in the acquisition of printing plates on the condition that the artist transferred the selling rights to him. Between 1908 and 1910, the art dealer secured the exclusive right to edit all new printing plates by Kollwitz. In 1918 he acquired almost all the existing etching and lithograph plates from the artist.

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Käthe Kollwitz, Warm Shelter, 1908/09, black chalk, pen and brush in ink and sepia on olive-green paper, background with highlights in white, NT (469a), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

From 1908 to 1911 Kollwitz worked for the satirical weekly Simplicissimus. Around 1908 there are several diary entries on visits to female patients of her husband where she describes the severity and tragedy of proletarian life.
In 14 drawings for the satirical magazine she directly addressed the problems of the proletariat and her graphic works increasingly became an instrument of social and political commitment.

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This having-to-finish-everything-in-a-rush, the necessity to express a theme in an accessible manner and at the same time – as this is for the Simpel (Simplicissimus) – the opportunity to remain on a high artistic level, but above all the fact that I can often convey to a large public what irks me again and again and what hasn’t been talked about nearly enough – all the many quiet and clamorous tragedies – this all makes my work very dear to me.«
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Beate Bonus-Jeep: Bonus-Jeep, Sechzig Jahre Freundschaft (Sixty years of friendship), 1948

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In the autumn of 1908 Käthe Kollwitz probably began her sculptural work.

history

The Reichsvereinsgesetz (law of association), passed in April 1908, allowed membership and activity of women in political groups. This did not, however, include an active or passive voting right.

1909

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz with her sons Hans and Peter, 1909, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz took part in the celebrations on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her grandfather’s Julius Rupp (1809-1884) birth in Königsberg.

Work

Commemorative stone for Julius Rupp in Königsberg with a bronze relief reproduced by Harald Haacke, 1991, today located near the cathedral in modern-day Kaliningrad, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist’s first sculptural work was the »Portrait Relief Julius Rupp«, S 01 – an image of her grandfather. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth the Free Evangelical Community honoured their founder with a commemorative stone which included the bronze relief by Käthe Kollwitz.

After World War II, in which the relief was lost, it was reconstructed by mistake after Käthe Kollwitz’ painting of her father. It was only in 1990 that a faithful reproduction by the Berlin sculptor Harald Haacke (1924-2004) cast at the Berlin Noack foundry replaced the original relief.

For the first time the artist was represented at the Biennale in Venice with a total of 13 works – among them the »Weavers cycle« and several folios from the »Peasants’ War«.

Kollwitz executed the six drawings for the »Images of Deprivation« series that were published between October 1909 and January 1910 in the Simplicissimus.

Creation of an unspecified graphic work for the Association for the Protection of Mothers.

History

Foundation of the Expressionist group of artists Neue Künstlervereinigung which included Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Alexej Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin and others.

First flight of a zeppelin over Berlin on 29 August.

1910

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, Self-portrait, frontal view, c 1910, charcoal on grey-blue Ingres paper, NT 688, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz attended the Abendakt (evening class for nude painting) at the sculptor Arthur Lewin- Funcke’s (1866-1937) private school for painting and sculpting – probably in the context of her increasing orientation towards sculptural works.

Her eldest son Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) started a degree course in medicine.

In spring 1910 the artist addressed the topic of Expressionism for the first time in her diaries.

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When several Expressionists left the Berlin Secession in 1910 to found the Neue Secession, Käthe Kollwitz initially referred to their works as ›talented scribblings‹ [in: Tagebücher (Diaries), April 1910].

After visiting a Black-and-White Exhibition of the Neue Secession in early October 1910, the artist finally saw the positive aspects of this new trend, and her woodcuts from the 1920s are clearly Expressionist in character:

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I am beginning to have an idea why this trend could have something positive. It is provocative, effective and must do the devil’s work.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 9 October 1910

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Käthe Kollwitz, Death, Woman and Child, 1910, line etching, drypoint, emery and vernis mou with screen printing of laid paper and Ziegler transfer paper, Kn 108 XIII, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln


Around 1910/11 the artist created a large number of etchings on the theme of ›Death‹ after drawings in which she was preoccupied with the life-threatening diphtheria infection of her son Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) in 1908.

Käthe Kollwitz drew in-situ sketches at the Moabit riots.

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For three nights now there have been riots in Moabit. 50 workers were on strike at the coal depots of Kupfer […] On the 2nd or 3rd day I went to Beusselstrasse. […] The street was packed with workers. […] The atmosphere was very tense […]. In front of the church there was a line of policemen on horseback. As I was leaving, the street began to be cleared. […] The Kupfer coal lorries only do their deliveries under police protection and cause a lot of emotion and ill feeling.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 29 September 1910

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history

The Moabit riots in Berlin, which started among workers at a coal merchant’s firm, eventually involved up to 30,000 people who took part in violent clashes between striking workers and the police.

1911

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz supported the Juryfreie Ausstellung (jury-free exhibition) founded by Hermann Sandkuhl (1872-1936), but had to give up her support under pressure from the Berlin Secession.

HISTORY

At a mass rally in Berlin-Treptow 200,000 people demonstrated against warmongering and for peace among nations.

On the first International Women’s Day people in Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the US demonstrated for women’s voting right and emancipation. 45,000 women took part in rallies in Berlin alone.

1912

Vita

The Berlin Studio House Siegmunds Hof 11 in the district of Tiergarten, before 1945, photographer unknown, historical postcard

From September 1912 to autumn 1918 Käthe Kollwitz rented a studio at the Berlin Siegmundshof for her sculptural work.

For her etching »Carmagnole«, Kn 51, the artist was awarded the Goldene Salzburger Staatsmedaille.

From 1912 Kollwitz was an elected board member of the Berlin Secession. After its split in 1913 she joined the Free Secession and was a board member from 1914 to 1916.

Her youngest son Peter Kollwitz (1896-1914) started a degree course in art at the training class of the Berlin Museum of Applied Art.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, poster »For Greater Berlin«, 1912, chalk and brush lithograph (transfer), Kn 122 I, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist designed a poster for the propaganda committee »For Greater Berlin«, Kn 122. Following an intervention by the association of homeowners, chief of police Traugott von Jagow (1865-1941) banned the poster for ›incitement to class hatred‹.

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Berlin and its metropolitan area saw a massive inward migration from the late 19th century. As a reaction, several communities founded the Zweckverband Groß-Berlin (Greater Berlin Administration Union) in 1911 in order to coordinate housing projects, protect recreational areas and unify public transport.
In 1912 architects and town-planners who found that their views had not been sufficiently taken into consideration founded a propaganda committee and used the poster to call for demonstrations.

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Käthe Kollwitz, Giving Birth in a Women’s Prison, 1912, black chalk, stubbed, on drawing cardboard, NT 697, (preparatory drawing for the pictorial broadsheet), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist contributed two drawings – today not clearly identifiable – for the Berlin exhibition Die Frau in Haus und Beruf (Women at Home and Work).
Her works were to be included in a 13-part pictorial broadsheet in the section Die Frau in der Wohlfahrtspflege (Women in Social Welfare Work), in which women artists explored the development of social care for female prisoners in the 19th century. For this reason, the authorities in Berlin for the first time granted permission to make drawings in prisons.

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I found it very interesting to visit the local women’s prison – which is still referred to as ‘Weibergefängnis’ on a sign. The second time I was there I had to wait in the waiting room for some time. There were two women who had come to visit their sons who were in custody. One of them was crying her eyes out. A third woman then said: ›Stop crying. If you cry life becomes even sadder.‹ There was such a strain of misery and emotional suffering in that room – horrible!«
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Hans Kolwitz of 3 March 1912, in: Briefe an den Sohn (Letters to the Son)

The exhibition Die Frau in Haus und Beruf (Women at Home and Work), organised by the Berlin Lyceums Club gave an overview of the activities of the 9.5 million working women in Germany and included the areas of education, farming, social work, trade and transport, nursing and journalism. In the fine-arts section, a selection of 250 works by women artists from Germany, Paris, London, Florence and Rome were exhibited.

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Until 1918 Käthe Kollwitz focused increasingly on her sculptural work. In the following three years she – among other projects – worked on the theme ›Lovers‹ which culminated in 1915 in her »Group of Lovers«, S 13.

history

In the elections for the German Reichstag, the SPD gained more than 4 million votes, and thus over a third of the votes, and became the largest party in parliament. Many Social Democrats had abandoned their former revolutionary positions in expectation of a peaceful transfer of power.

On 20 October, following an appeal by the SPD, 250,000 people demonstrated in Berlin for a democratic voting system in Prussia and against rising food prices and the danger of war. At this mass rally, in which Käthe Kollwitz, her husband and her son Peter took part, the participants decided – by a show of hands – to issue a resolution to fight together with the workers of all countries against war as a concomitant symptom of imperialist policy.

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Titanic disaster

1913

Vita

After the split of the Berlin Secession, Käthe Kollwitz joined the Free Secession and became a member of the board from 1914 to 1916.

She was one of the founders of the Women’s Art Association and its first chairperson until 1923.

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After several unsuccessful petitions – which Käthe Kollwitz had also signed – to allow women to join and teach at art academies between 1904 and 1908, the Women’s Art Association made this their main objective. From 1919 onwards, the situation in that area slowly improved in Prussia.

In addition, the Association demanded equal rights for women as members of artists’ corporations and selection committees. They also advocated a stronger female presence in juries, acquisition and exhibition committees and staged numerous exhibitions featuring women artists.

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Peter, Käthe Kollwitz’ youngest son, took part in the first Ersten Freideutschen Jugendtag (Free German Youth Day) on Hoher Meissner mountain.

Werk

Käthe Kollwitz, March Cemetery, 1913, bi-colour chalk lithograph, Kn 128, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The lithograph »March Cemetery«, Kn 128, was created as a members’ gift of the Freie Volksbühne theatre whose director was Käthe Kollwitz’ brother Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932).
Konrad took his sister to the cemetery for those who fell in the March Revolution in 1848 when she was studying in Berlin. She visited the cemetery regularly after she moved to Berlin.

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I visited the March Cemetery of 1848 on the 18th of March every year. A long line of workers slowly walked past the graves from morning till evening. They put wreaths with red ribbons and inscriptions on the tombstones, but many of the ribbons were cut off by the police who stood at the entrance to the cemetery. […] Before the War, the 18th of March was a day that was celebrated by all the red workers in Berlin.«
Käthe Kollwitz on the lithograph »March Cemetery«, in: Das neue Kollwitz-Werk, Dresden, 1933

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Johannes Sievers (1880-1969) published the catalogue raisonné of Käthe Kollwitz’ prints.

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Johannes Siever’s essential catalogue raisonné, which had been commissioned by the art dealer Emil Richter in late 1910 or early 1911 with the assistant of the director of the Berlin Print Room, was compiled with the assistance of Käthe Kollwitz. It was above all based on the collections of the Berlin and Dresden Print Rooms as well as on the works in possession of the artist herself.

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History

Largest increase in the number of troops since 1871 – by 136,000 to 780,000.

Hugo Haase (1863-1919) and Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925) became party leaders of the SPD after August Bebel’s (1840-1913) death.

Formal opening of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument to the Battle of the Nations) in Leipzig. As a counter-event, the youth movement celebrated the first Free German Youth Day on the Hoher Meissner mountain.

1914 - 1918

1914

Vita

At the beginning of the First World War Käthe Kollwitz briefly joined the Nationalen Frauendienst (National Women’s Service) that defined its task as the equivalent of military service.

Peter Kollwitz as a soldier, 1914, Kollwitz estate, © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Her youngest son, Peter Kollwitz (1896-1914), who was not yet of age at that time, received permission from his father to volunteer for military service.

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As a result of her misjudgement of the cause of the war and despite her conflicting feelings, Käthe Kollwitz supported Peter in getting permission from his father.

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Karl argues against this plan as best as he can […]: ›The Fatherland does not need you yet, otherwise they would have drafted you.‹ Peter, quieter, but firm: ›The Fatherland does not yet need young men my age, but it needs me.‹ Again and again he turns around to look at me, silently and imploringly […]. Eventually he says: ›Mother, when you embraced me you said: don’t think I’m a coward, we are ready.‹ I stand up […] and ask Karl to grant Peter his wish. […] He forced this sacrifice on me and we forced it on Karl.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 10 August 1914

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Peter fell near Dixmuiden in Belgium on 22 October.

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That point in time marked my beginning of old age, my walking towards my grave. That was a rupture. A bending down so low that I will never be able to stand straight.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 12 October 1917

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Her eldest son Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) served as a medical orderly at the request of his parents. In December he was infected with diphtheria at a convalescent hospital for typhoid sufferers in Spa (Belgium). His father was granted permission to visit him there.

Work

Before her son fell, Käthe Kollwitz drew the lithograph »Waiting«, Kn 132 for the Kriegszeit-Künstlerflugblätter journal published by Paul Cassirer (1871-1926). When Cassirer published the Bildermann journal in 1916 the artist contributed the lithograph »Mother Holding a Child in her Arms«, Kn 136.

Käthe Kollwitz, Dead Soldier, central figure of an abandoned project for a three-figure memorial in honour of those killed in action, 1915-1918 (?), plaster, measurements unknown (probably larger than life), not extant © Landesarchiv Berlin

From late 1914 onwards Käthe Kollwitz was imbued with the desire to create a memorial in honour of the sacrificial death of young volunteers – embodied in the figure of her son, with his father at his head and his mother at his feet.

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In this work, which was only finished 18 years later in 1932, she eventually abandoned the idea of presenting the fallen soldiers as heroes, and she even gave up the idea of including a portrait of her son. This conceptual change in the design of the memorial reflected her agonising inner change which eventually led to a complete rejection of all wars.

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history

Outbreak of the First World War.

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The Austrian successor to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by a Serbian underground organisation that was alleged to have links to official bodies. As a result, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war against Serbia on 28 July. On 1 August, after Russian mobilisation, the German Kaiserreich, an ally of Austria, declared war against Russia as Serbia’s ally. Two days later the Reich mad a declaration of war against France.

The SPD supported the strategy of the government which suggested to the public that the German Reich was involved in a defensive war against Russia. Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) was the only SPD member of parliament to vote against war bonds in December.

On the western front, after a brief period of military success, a trench warfare emerged that was to last four years. The Battle of Verdun in 1916 came to epitomise the cruelty of war, and millions of soldiers died as cannon fodder in several unsuccessful offensives. The material and equipment used included modern developments such as poison gas and airships.

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1915

Vita

The year 1915 was dominated by her mourning for her youngest son Peter Kollwitz (1896-1914) who fell near Dixmuiden on 22 October 1914.

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As the grave of their son was in Belgium, which was a war zone, his room at his parent’s house became a place of mourning for his parents, family and friends. Käthe Kollwitz became an attachment figure for Peter’s closest friends, even let them call her ›Mother‹ and expressed great sympathy for them. Like Peter, most of them would fall in the course of the war.

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Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Mother, standing, pressing an infant to her face, 1915, charcoal and brush in ink, NT 722, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz used her art to come to terms with her grief – as in the expressive charcoal drawing »The Sacrifice«, NT 722.

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I am working on the presentation. I ‘had to’ change everything – it was almost compulsive. The figure bent forward under my hands – as if it had a will of its own. Now she is no longer upright. She bends down, very low, offering her child. In deepest humility.”
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 27 April 1915

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The artist looked for support for her memorial project for Peter and all the war volunteers, took advice and started work on the sculpture.
The planned three-figure, larger-than-life memorial with the figure of the son between his father and mother was to be erected on the Havelhöhen on a spit of land called Schildhorn in the Grunewald woodlands, a favourite weekend destination for Berliners.

history

On 22 April German troops employed poison gas for the first time in the Battle of Ypres.

On 19 June high-ranking SPD politicians demanded that their party abandon the political truce.

Britain established a naval blockade to prevent ordnance for the Central Powers of Germany and Austria. This starvation blockade led to a perilous shortage of raw materials and food.

1916

Vita

Celebration of Käthe and Karl Kollwitz’ silver wedding.

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There was never a lack of love in you and that has made it possible for us to stand so close together after 25 years […] Our marriage tree has grown slowly, not as straight and without obstacles as many others […]. Yet the small sapling has grown into a tree which is healthy at heart.”
Käthe Kollwitz, loose addendum to her diaries, 13 June 1916

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Karl and Hans Kollwitz, ca 1915, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Her eldest son Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) was deployed to a military reconnaissance unit with moored balloons in Romania.

Käthe Kollwitz became increasingly critical of the sense of the war. Her diary entries bear witness to this gradual, painful inner change that turned her into a pacifist. This transition culminated in 1918 in her public resistance to the war.

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Peter, […] they all devoted their lives to the idea of patriotism. The young men in England, Russia and France did the same. The result was a raging battle against each other, which impoverished Europe and robbed it of its most beautiful people. Has the youth in all these countries been deceived? Has their ability to commit themselves been exploited to generate the war? And where are the culprits? Are there any? Have we all been deceived? Has this been a case of mass-madness? And when and how will the awakening be?«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 11 October 1917

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During the so-called Turnip Winter of 1916/17 the food parcels sent by their son Hans were a great help.

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Lina’s [Lina Mäkler, maid of the Kollwitz family] voice was trembling as she took the bag of flour [from your parcel]. You can’t imagine how important these things are – flour, beans, oil, bread, peas, in short all the delicious things your parcel contained […] We have stopped going to the soup kitchens because the quality got worse and worse. I’m not sure, though, if we will manage to do without them.«

Käthe Kollwitz, Briefe an den Sohn (Letters to the Son), 26. März 1917

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Käthe Kollwitz, Group of Lovers, 1913-15, bronze, S 13 Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist presented her very first sculptural work, the »Group of Lovers«, S 13, at the spring exhibition of the Free Secession.

Käthe Kollwitz, Mother with child in her arms, 1916, chalk lithograph (transfer), Kn 136 A II, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The Bildermann magazine, published by Paul Cassirer (1871-1926), printed the lithograph »Mother with child on her arms«, Kn 136.

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The Bildermann magazine replaced Cassirer’s Kriegszeit magazine in 1916 and contained, like the latter, original lithographs by numerous well-known artist and emphasised its pacifist stance. This was in line with the increasing war-weariness of the population.

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History

The SPD politician Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) was accused of high treason after his anti-war speech on 1 May 1916 and sentenced to 4 years and 1 month in prison. This resulted in a protest strike, the so-called Liebknechtstreik, which was largely limited to Berlin.

The food supply, above all in urban areas, became increasingly problematical after the catastrophic potato harvest in 1916 and dramatically exacerbated the difficulties that had already emerged in 1915. During the Turnip Winter, yellow turnips and swedes, usually regarded as pig feed, replaced bread and potatoes. The health situation of urban residents deteriorated rapidly. The town council of Berlin established soup kitchens to provide food for its population.

The painter Franz Marc (1880-1916) fell in Verdun, France, on 4 March. The Munich Secession organised an exhibition in his honour.

Death of the women’s rights activist Lilly Braun (1865-1916) on 8 August.

1917

Vita

Celebration of Käthe Kollwitz’ birthday on 8 July.

Woldemar von Seidlitz (1850-1922), lecturer and councillor at the Royal Art Collection in Dresden, took the opportunity of her birthday to suggest Käthe Kollwitz for admission to the Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin.

Death of her eldest sister Julie Hofferichter (1860-1917).

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Cover image of the Käthe Kollwitz Exhibition catalogue on the occasion of her 50th birthday at the Paul Cassirer Gallery, Berlin, 1917, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

There were numerous exhibitions in her ›jubilee‹ year. The Berlin Print Room presented almost the entire graphic work of the artist.
At the Paul Cassirer (1871-1923) Gallery, Käthe Kollwitz exhibited for the first time a substantial number of drawings. This exhibition subsequently travelled to Königsberg, Dresden, Hamburg and Mannheim.

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The exhibition [at Cassirer’s gallery] was a great success. I have heard from many sides that it is regarded as homogeneous and very impressive. […] If my works manage to preserve this effect – even after decades – I have achieved quite a lot. It would mean that I have enriched people’s lives. I assisted with the setting up of the exhibition. Everybody is involved, by the way, but I thought it should fall to me more than anybody else.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 13 May 1917

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history

After several SPD members of parliament had vehemently opposed expansionist war objectives in 1916, they were expelled from the party in 1917. As a result of these internal conflicts the party split into MSPD (Majority Social Democrats) under Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925) and USPD (independent Social Democrats) under Hugo Haase (1863-1919). The Spartakusbund joined the latter political grouping. Their most famous members were Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919).

The Aprilstreik (Strike of April) of 1917 was, after the Liebknechtstreik in 1916, the second mass rally in Germany during the World War. As a protest against the insufficient food supply, the so-called Brotstreik (bread strike) directly followed the food riots during the Turnip Winter of 1916/17.

The February Revolution in Russia ended the rule of the Tsars. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) achieved his aim to establish the Soviet Republic in the November Revolution.

1918

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz wrote an open letter against Richard Dehmel’s (1863-1920) Appeal for a final push to win the war. The letter was published on 28 October in the Vossische Zeitung and on 30 October in the Vorwärts.

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I herewith express my opposition to Richard Dehmel. I assume, like Dehmel himself, that such an appeal to patriotic honour would be followed by a selected group of young men. Rather like in autumn 1914, where this group consisted mainly of young German men. […]. The result would in all probability be that those who are prepared to sacrifice themselves would indeed be killed. And it would mean that Germany – after the last four years of daily bloodshed – would have haemorrhaged to death. […] In my opinion such a loss would be much worse and more irreparable than the loss of entire provinces. […] We have learned to see things differently during these years. And seems to me that this includes looking at the meaning of the term ›honour‹. […]
Enough people have died! No more people must fall! I invoke a greater poet than Richard Dehmel who said: ›Seeds for sowing must not be ground‹.

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When the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann (1865-1939) proclaimed the republic from a balcony of the Reichstag (parliament building) during the November Revolution on 9 November, Käthe Kollwitz was among the crowd.

On 17 November, the Vorwärts magazine published an appeal by the artist to give the returning troops a dignified welcome in Berlin. This appeal led to a variety of individuals and institutions concerning themselves with this issue and to Berlin being officially decked with flags for this occasion on 1 December.

On 20 November her eldest son Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) returned from the war.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Mothers, 1918, line etching, emery, vernis mou with screen printing of laid paper, bundle of needles, Kn 137 III, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz began work on her print series »War« (1918-1922/23). She had initially planned the cycle in the last year of the war as a series of etchings, but reworked it as a lithograph cycle in 1919/20 and eventually executed it as a woodcut series in 1921-1922/23.

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I have now […] immersed myself in a work which I probably had vague ideas about since 1914. […] So far, there are only drawings. Never showed them to anybody. Cried when I drew them. Apart from the fact that I had not considered doing any graphic works in the next few years, there were two other reasons why I kept procrastinating. First of all, it is the apprehension about letting the deeply experienced feelings from these years out into the open […]. And then it is the feeling of the bumbling inadequacy of the studio work […] to express all this living and dying.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Briefe an den Sohn (Letters to the Son), 31 January 1918

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history

During the January Strikes, more than a million workers demanded better living and working conditions, an end of the First World War and the democratisation of the constitution of the German Reich. 

After negotiations lasting several months, the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was singed on 3 March between Soviet Russia and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria.

The November Revolution on 9 November led to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann (1865-1939) proclaimed the republic.

The Truce of Compiègne of 11 November ended military action between Germany and the two Western Powers, France and Britain. The First World War had claimed the lives of 10 million people and the number of wounded was 20 million.

1919 - 1926

1919

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, 1920, photo: Robert Sennecke, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The Prussian Academy of Art appointed Käthe Kollwitz a member and professor – it was the first appointment of a woman artist in over 100 years.

Kollwitz signed the Declaration in the Liebknecht-Luxemburg Case, a protest initiative of the Liga zur Förderung der Humanität (League for the Promotion of Humaneness) against the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919). The artist had co-organised the initiative.

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The appeal was sent to 1,200 leading public figures and signed by herself and, among others, by Albert Einstein, Magnus Hirschfeld, Maximilian Harden and Walter Rathenau. At a time of death threats and assassinations by secret political organisations, this was a courageous step.

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Katharina Schmidt (1837-1925), the artist’s mother moved into the Kollwitz family’s flat in Weissenburgerstrasse. 

Science minister Konrad Haenisch appointed Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932), the artist’s brother, honorary professor of history and the theory of Socialism at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin.

Work

Between 1919 and 1923 Kollwitz designed numerous drawings, prints and posters on the post-war misery. 

Käthe Kollwitz, Hugo Haase on his deathbed, 1919, chalk lithograph, Kn 147, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz made a drawing of Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919), assassinated on 15 January, at the request of his family in the mortuary.

In the same year, she created the lithograph of Hugo Haase (1863-1919), who died on 7 November as a result of an earlier assassination attempt. The artist had known this pacifist and leader of the USPD since her youth.

The artist interrupted her work on a memorial for her fallen son until 1924.

History

After the January Revolt with armed street battles in Berlin between 5 and 12 January, which was crushed by the USPD and the KPD, the successor to the Spartakusbund, Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) and others were assassinated by soldiers from volunteer corps.

On 19 January elections for the German Constituent National Assembly took place. They gave free, secret and equal voting rights for all men and women over the age of 20.

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For the first time in Germany, women were permitted to vote. As a result of political turmoil, the National Assembly did not convene in Berlin, but at the Weimar National Theatre where it passed Germany’s first parliamentary-democratic constitution in summer 1919. This place gave the Weimar Republic its name.

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On 19 June the Peace Treaty of Versailles was signed. Germany and its allies as initiators of the war were ordered to pay for all war losses and damage and were burdened with high reparation payments.

On 7 November the USPD politician Hugo Haase (1863-1919) died as a result of an assassination attempt on 8 October.

The following years until 1924 were characterised by political upheavals, putsch attempts by the extreme right, political assassinations and revolts by the KPD and USPD.

1920

Vita

Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz, ca 1920, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Her eldest son Hans finished his degree course in medicine and married Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz (1900-1963).


His wife came from an East Prussian family of land owners. She studied applied graphics at the Reimann School in Berlin and illustrated children’s books and Grimm’s fairy tales together with Hans Baluschek. In 1946, the Henning Gallery in Halle edited an album with 13 of her woodcuts and wood engravings most of which were depictions of East Prussian landscapes.

The couple had four children – Peter (1921-1942), the twins Jördis (1923-2017) and Jutta (*1923), and Arne (*1930). Their first-born son was named after Hans Kollwitz’ younger brother who fell in 1914 aged 18.

Käthe Kollwitz gave a speech at the grave of Max Klinger (1857-1920) at the request of the Free Secession.

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Käthe Kollwitz’ speech was transmitted by the architect Hilbersheimer:

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We young people flocked to the Print Rooms in Munich and Berlin to see Klinger’s etchings. What thrilled us […] about these prints was not their technical mastery. It was their enormous vital energy, the energy of expression that captivated us. We knew that Klinger did not stick to the surface of things, he dived down into the dark depths of life […]. He pulled out all the stops and captured life in all its sublime splendour and sadness and interpreted it for us.« 
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher, Anmerkungen (Diaries, Annotations), mid-July 1920

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On 1 August the artist took part in the mass rally of war invalids and victims. 

In her diary she distanced herself from the revolutionary attitudes of her youth. This was triggered by the party conference of the USPD at which it joined the Communist International

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I was a revolutionary. My childhood and adolescent dreams were about revolution and barricades. If I were young now, I would certainly be a Communist. There is still something that draws me towards it, but […] I have lived through the war and saw Peter and thousands of other boys die. I am aghast and shaken by all the hatred in the world. I long for a kind of Socialism that lets people live their lives.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), Oktober 1920

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Work

Käthe Kollwitz, At the Paediatrician’s Surgery, second of »Three Pamphlets against Profiteering«, 1920, chalk lithograph (transfer), Kn 156, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Commissioned by the regional police office of the state commissioner for health and nutrition, Käthe Kollwitz designed three »Pamphlets against Profiteering«.

As a result of food shortages and the onset of inflation, excessive pricing was rife. The population was encouraged to report such cases of usury and profiteering. 

Käthe Kollwitz, In Memoriam Karl Liebknecht, third and final version, 1920, woodcut, Kn 159, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Inspired by Ernst Barlach’s woodcuts at an exhibition of the Free Berlin Secession, the artist created the final version of one of her first works in this technique for a »Memoriam for Karl Liebknecht«.

Kollwitz was outraged by the assassinations of Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) and Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and impressed by the funeral procession that the USPD and KPD used as an opportunity to stage a mass demonstration. She decided to represent the workers’ farewell artistically without advocating Liebknecht’s political stance.

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As an artist, I have the right to extract the emotional value from everything, to let it act on me and then to represent it. Therefore, I have the right to depict the farewell of the workers at Liebknecht’s funeral, even to dedicate the work to the workers, without following Liebknecht’s political path. Or haven’t I?«
Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebüchr (Diaries), October 1920

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Publication of the so-called ›Richter Portfolio‹ with 23 facsimiles of works by Kollwitz, she selected the folios herself. They were printed on the same papers as the originals.
 
The portfolio was published by the artist’s editor Emil Richter in Dresden and included one original lithograph and collotype prints of 23 drawings as well as an early colour lithograph. The facsimiles had an oval stamp with the looped initials ›ERV‹ on the back.

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On 10 January, the League of Nations – which had its origin in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 – became operational.

On 13 March the counter-revolutionary Kapp-Putsch was crushed. The country was on the brink of civil war and the government hastily relocated from Berlin to Stuttgart. 

Strikes and mass demonstrations in the industrial heartland of the Ruhr.

Max Liebermann (1847-1935) became president of the Prussian Academy of Art.

1921

Vita

Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz with Peter, 1921, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of the artist’s first grandson Peter Kollwitz (1921-1942).


The son of Hans Kollwitz and Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz, being the first grandchild of the artist, was given the name of her son who fell in 1914. Peter Kollwitz was drafted in 1940 and fell on 22 September 1942 on the Eastern Front near Rzhev.

From 1921 to 1933 the artist was a commission member of the Prussian Academy of Art. The commission was in charge of the programme for special exhibitions and for the selection of artists who were invited to take part in the academy exhibitions staged every six months. 

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, The Mothers, folio 6 of the cycle »War«, 1921-22, woodcut, Kn 176 III, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

From 1921 to 1922/23 Kollwitz was occupied with the execution of the print cycle »War«. This first woodcut cycle revealed the inner development of the artist in her attitude towards the First World War – from a supporter to a pacifist. The cycle ended with an appeal to mothers not to let their children join a war. This was a concern that was of great importance to the artist for the rest of her life and which she described in 1941 as her ›testament‹.

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I have tried again and again to represent war. I was never able to capture it. Now, finally, I have finished a series of woodcuts that come close to expressing what I have always wanted to express. […] These prints should be sent all over the world and give everybody the essence of what it was like – this is what we all went through during these unspeakably hard times.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Romain Rolland from 23 October 1922, from: Briefe der Freundschaft (Letters of Friendship)

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Käthe Kollwitz, Help Russia, 1921, colour lithograph (transfer), Kn 170 A I, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Following an appeal by Lenin in which he asked all progressive artists and intellectuals to contribute to the relief of the catastrophic drought in the Volga region, Kollwitz joined the central and foreign committees of the communist Workers International Relief (WIR) – not, however, for political, but for humanitarian reasons. 

The poster »Help Russia«, Kn 170, was created for the Künstlerhilfe (Artists Relief) a subdivision of the WIR that supports their work with posters, exhibitions and other events.

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I am cooperating with the Communists to combat the dreadful famine in Russia. As a result, I have once again been drawn into political life, quite against my will. I designed a poster showing a man who is about to collapse and helping hands reaching out towards him. It is a good work – thank God.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 12 September 1921

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From 1921 to 1934 Käthe Kollwitz took part in the Black-and-White Exhibitions at the Prussian Academy of Art.

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Max Liebermann (1947-1935), who had become president of the Academy on 1 October 1920, introduced the Black-and-White Exhibitions to complement the previous exhibitions which mainly featured oil paintings and sculptural works. Käthe Kollwitz participated regularly, from the first presentation in 1921 until 1934.

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history

36 million people were affected by the drought and famine in the Volga region which was the result of revolution, civil war and expropriation. Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), who later received the Nobel Peace Prize, appealed to the League of Nations to send an aid expedition to Russia.

The London Reparation Plan set reparation payments to the Allies in the amount of 226 billion gold-marks, payable within 42 years. The German government rejected the demands as unfulfillable and there were protest demonstrations.

1922

Vita

An appeal by the Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte (German League for Human Rights) for a reapprochement with France was signed by Käthe Kollwitz, Albert Einstein and others.

On the Volkstrauertag (National Day of Mourning) – a public holiday introduced in 1919 in honour of the fallen soldiers in the First World War – the artist attended a ceremony that was for the first time held in the Reichstag.

Heinz Bonus, the son of Kollwitz’ friend Beate Bonus-Jeep, moved into the Kollwitz family flat in Weissenburgerstrasse where he stayed as a lodger for three years.

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Walter Rathenau (1867-1922) was appointed foreign minister and negotiated the Rapallo Treaty which helped the German Reich to end its international isolation. On 24 June he was the victim of an assassination.
Numerous other assassination attempts unsettled the population. Maximilian Harden (1861-1927), publisher and editor of the weekly Die Zukunft was also severely injured in such an attempt.

Continuous rise of inflation in the German Reich.

1923

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Jördis and Jutta Kollwitz, c 1927, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of the twin-grandchildren Jördis (1923-2017) and Jutta (*1923).

Jutta Bohnke-Kollwitz did a degree course in German studies and in 1960 she assumed the task of building up the Cologne Germanica Judaica – Library on the History of Judaism in Germany. From 1985 until the end of 1989 she was the leading founding member of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Cologne. In 1989 she published Käthe Kollwitz’ complete diaries and in 1992 a selection of the artist’s letters to her son Hans.

The two daughters of Hans Kollwitz and Ottilie Ehlers-Kollwitz provided care for the artist in the last year of her life at Moritzburg.

In 1923 Käthe Kollwitz had to have gall-bladder surgery.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, The Survivors, 1923, chalk and brush lithograph, scraping needle (transfer), Kn 197 II b 2, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist designed the poster »The Survivors – War against War«, Kn 197, which was translated into numerous languages.

She became the second graphic artist – after Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923) to be commissioned by the International Labour Union to the design for a poster for the Anti-War Day in September 1924 at which the 10th anniversary of the First World War was commemorated.

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When I know that I am collaborating in an international community against the war it gives me a warm and satisfying feeling. Pure art, admittedly, like that of Schmidt-Rottluff, is not my cup of tea. But art generally speaking, yes. […] I agree that my art has a purpose. I want to have an impact in these times in which people are so confused and in need of help.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 4 December 1922

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Her poster »Germany’s Children are Starving!«, Kn 202, for the Workers international Relief (WIR) addressed the plight of children in Germany during the height of inflation.

The artist published the portfolio ›Farewell and Death‹ with eight facsimile drawings from the period 1910 to 1923. It was printed in offset and its introduction was written by Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946). This special edition also contains an original lithograph.

At the Academy Exhibition she showed, for the first time, the complete print series »War« as well as preparatory drawings and folios on the theme of ›Death‹.

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I […] presented my woodcut series »War« which I have finally completed alongside many drawings. You know what extremely difficult times these works have emerged from. I did expect a positive reception, but not that the works would resonate in such a way. To know that I have spoken for so many people makes me very happy […]. An additional bonus is that I manage to sell quite a lot and this means that we are not experiencing any hardship at the moment.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, letter of 13 November 1923 to Erna Krüger, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, manuscript department

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history

The Occupation of the Ruhr was a military reaction of Belgian and French troops to the German arrears in reparation payments to France.

Inflation reached a climax with over 2 million unemployed people in Germany. From summer 1923 onwards prices went up several times per day. While a loaf of bread cost as much as 1,250 marks in June, by mid-November the price had reached a staggering 5 billion or more in some places. People’s savings were worthless. In order to be able to buy the bare necessities, working class women waited for their husbands at the factory gates on pay day and took the money in laundry baskets or wheelbarrows to the grocer’s. The situation of unemployed people was even worse, and their number rocketed in autumn 1923.
On 15 November 1923 the Rentenmark (a real-estate backed currency) was issued which ended the period of inflation.

The Hitler Putsch on 8 and 9 November 1923 was crushed. It had been an attempt by the NSDAP to topple the government in Berlin.

1924

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Käthe Kollwitz became a member of the advisory board of the hostel for adult learners in Prerow on the Darss peninsula which had been founded by the progressive educationalist and draughtsman Fritz Klatt (1888-1945).

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Never Again War, 1924, chalk and brush lithograph, poster for the Central German Youth Day in Leipzig on 2-4 August 1924, Kn 205 IIIb, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

For the occasion of the Central German Youth Day of the Socialist Workers Movement in Leipzig Kollwitz created the poster »Never Again War«, Kn 205. After World War II it became an icon of the peace movement until well into the 1980s.


The lithograph »Bread«, Kn 208, was Käthe Kollwitz’ contribution to the portfolio Hunger – seven original lithographs, published by Otto Nagel (1894-1967) for the Artists Relief of the WIR. The other artists who submitted contributions were Otto Dix, George Grosz, Eric Johansson, Otto Nagel, Karl Völker and Heinrich Zille.

The artist resumed work on the memorial for her son Peter, who fell in 1914, which she had suspended in 1919.

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As a result of the inner change that had turned her into a pacifist and made her reject all forms of war, she planned a new concept which no longer included the figure of her fallen son as this would have been too strongly reminiscent of traditional war memorials. In Kollwitz’ new concept, only the mourning parents were represented. She no longer considered the Havelhöhen in Berlin as a location for the memorial, but the war cemetery in Roggefelde, Belgium, where her son Peter was buried.

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Participation in the First General German Art Exhibition in Moscow.

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Otto Nagel (1894-1967) organised this exhibition with more than 500 works by around 130 artists for the Workers International Relief (WIR) and accompanied Kollwitz to Moscow. The show gave an overview of more recent trends in art, beginning with Expressionism. The only representatives of the Free Secession were Hans Baluschek, Ernst Barlach, Käthe Kollwitz and Heinrich Zille.

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history

The Dawes Plan was a revision of German reparation payments to the victorious powers in the First World War. 

1925

Vita

The artist’s mother Katharina Schmidt (1837-1925) with her daughters Käthe (left) and Lise (right) on the balcony in the flat at Weissenburger Strasse, c 1920, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln


Death of Katharina Schmidt (1837-1925), the artist’s mother who had lived at the flat of the Kollwitz family in Weissenburgerstrasse from 1919.
Death of Anna Butzke (1863-1925), wife of her brother Konrad. After Anna’s death he moved in with Käthe and Karl Kollwitz.

Käthe Kollwitz, Mother with Child on her Back, 1925/26, charcoal, NT 1018, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The documentary film maker Hans Cürlis (1889-1982) produced a short film portrait of Käthe Kollwitz for his film cycle Schaffende Hände (creating hands) that he had begun in 1923.
The individual sequences on painters, sculptors and graphic artists such as Lovis Corinth, Max Liebermann and Renée Sintenis documented the artists’ different characteristic methods. Käthe Kollwitz was filmed working on the drawing »Mother with Child on her Back«.

The films were shown individually, but also as part of film matinees or as a supporting programme in cinemas.

Work

Creation of the woodcut series »Proletariat«, Kn 215, Kn 216, Kn 222.

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Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934) became the second president of the Weimar Republic after the death of Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925).

After his release from prison in December 1924 Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) founded the National Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP) in February 1925.

1926

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz was a member of the committee for the preselection of artists for the Great State Prize for Sculptors and Architects donated by the Prussian Academy of Art

Fides Rüstow, daughter of the sociologist Alexander Rüstow (1885-1963), a close friend of the Kollwitz family, moved in as a lodger.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Self-portrait, 1926-1936, S 26 II.B.1, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz worked on her sculptural self-portrait from 1926 to around 1936.

One of the probably three bronze casts of this bust that were made during the artist’s lifetime was acquired in the 1930s by the New York collector Erich Cohn (1898-1972), (today: private collection, Berne); another cast was bought by Joseph Katz (no biographical data) (today: Baltimore Museum of Art, USA); the third cast has been part of the collection at the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln since 2016.

The Berlin journalist and Kollwitz collector Louise Diel (1893-1967) curated a Kollwitz solo exhibition in 1925. The show was conceptualised as a travelling exhibition with shows in New York in 1925/26, Geneva and Berne in 1926, and finally, on the occasion of the artist’s 60th birthday, in several German cities.

Visit to the grave of her son Peter Kollwitz (1896-1914), who fell in the First World War, at the war cemetery in Roggefelde, Belgium. The artist subsequently began work on the final version of the memorial »Mourning Parents«.

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Admittance of Germany into the League of Nations.

Joseph Goebbels (1867-1945) was appointed National Socialist Gauleiter in Berlin. This radicalised the political disputes.

1927 - 1932

1927

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, Self-portrait, profile view, 1927, chalk lithograph, Kn 235 b, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

On the occasion of her 60th birthday, Käthe Kollwitz received many honours. Among the 500 letters and telegrams were congratulations from the German Minister of the Interior, the Prussian Minister of Culture, the Reichskunstwart (literally: imperial art protector), the Mayor of Berlin and the Russian ambassador. This shows that Käthe Kollwitz enjoyed great renown during the Weimar Republic that went far beyond any artistic circles.
The Berliner Tageblatt newspaper published a short appreciation by Gerhart Hauptmann.

Käthe Kollwitz, November 1927 in Moscow in a circle of Russian artists and actors, photographer unknown © Sybille Schallenberg-Nagel

The artist received an invitation to take part in the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution in Moscow and travelled there accompanied by her husband.
Other public figures from Berlin that were invited included the writer and editor Arthur Holitscher, the writer Johannes R. Becher, the women’s rights activist Helene Stöcker and the economist Robert René Kuczynski. The latter was the founder and chairperson of a Committee for the support of a plebiscite that advocated expropriation without compensation of the German aristocracy. This committee was also supported by Käthe Kollwitz.

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Käthe Kollwitz wrote about her journey to Russia in her diary:

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This is not the right space to explain why I am not a Communist. But what it is appropriate to say here is that the events in Russia in the last 10 years appear to me to be comparable only to the French Revolution with regard to their scale and extensive importance. […] Gorki wrote about flying ›with your soles pointing up‹ in an essay on the first few years of the Soviet Republic. I think I could feel this flying through a gale when I was in Russia.« 

Käthe Kollwitz in the Berlin Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (AIZ) newspaper, 6th vol., No. 43 of 26 October 1927

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Work

Jury for the autumn exhibition at the Prussian Academy of Art examining the works submitted, from left to right: Philipp Franck, August Kraus, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Liebermann, Fritz Klimsch and Ulrich Hübner, 1927, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

At the autumn exhibition of the Prussian Academy of Art Kollwitz presented an overview of her entire graphic work on the occasion of her 60th birthday. The exhibits included almost 100 prints and drawings from the artist’s own collection as well as from private and public collections.

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Discontinuation of inter-allied military control in Germany.

The combat units of KPD and NSDAP were involved in violent street battles in Berlin.

1928

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, 1928, photograph: Emil O. Hoppe, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

From 1928 to 1933 Käthe Kollwitz was the first woman to direct one of the six master workshops of the Department of Fine Art at the Prussian Academy of Art. This position also made her a member of the senate. She was given a large studio for her own work.


The same year, the artist had a number of severe heart problems as a result of a flu infection. She was ill for several months and undertook treatment at a spa.

Work

She created several smaller works, among them a drawing for the title page of a brochure in six languages – Never Again War – commissioned by the International Labour Union and a postcard for the SPD in Leipzig commemorating the 10th anniversary of the revolution of 1918, NT 1163 a.

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Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946) was appointed head of the Department of Literature at the Prussian Academy of Art.

Erich Maria Remarque’s (1898-1970) anti-war novel All Quiet On The Western Front was published as a pre-print in the Vossische Zeitung newspaper.

1929

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, 1929, photo: Lotte Jacobi, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz became the first woman to be awarded the Order Pour le Mérite for arts and science.


In his role as Chancellor of the Order, the theologian Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), presented the artist with the Pour le Mérite in her studio. Others who were awarded the Order in the Weimar Republic included Max Liebermann, Gerhart Hauptmann, Max Slevogt, Leopold Graf von Kalckreuth and, in 1933, Ernst Barlach. These were artists that would have failed to receive any award under Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Mutter Krausen’s Fahrt ins Glück (Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness), 1929, chalk and brush lithograph (transfer), Kn 248, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After the death of Heinrich Zille (1858-1929), Käthe Kollwitz and Hans Baluschek (1870-1935) took over the patronage for the film Mutter Krausen’s Fahrt ins Glück to commemorate the artist and Kollwitz designed the film poster. The film was produced with the decisive involvement of Otto Nagel (1894-1967).

history

Unemployment figures in the Weimar Republic reached 2.8 million.

On 24 October 1929, Black Thursday, there was a massive crash of share prices on the New York stock exchange. The following day, the repercussions reached the European stock exchanges. This stock market crash was the prelude to the world economic crisis.

1930

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Käthe and Karl Kollwitz with their gradson Arne (*1930), c 1932, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Birth of her youngest grandchild Arne Andreas Kollwitz (*1930).

Professor Dr med Arne Kollwitz was the head physician of the urological department for many years before being appointed medical director at the Sankt-Franziskus Hospital in Berlin.
After the death of his father Hans Kollwitz (1892-1971) he has chaired the community of heirs of the Kollwitz estate.

Käthe Kollwitz signed a petition for the release of the Russian social revolutionary Maria Alexandrovna Spiridovna (1884-1941) who had been taken into custody and banned. The artist also signed a protest note against the banning of Russian scientists.

After Erich Maria Remarque’s (1898-1970) film All Quiet On The Western Front was banned, numerous well-known intellectuals including Käthe Kollwitz, Heinrich Mann and Karl Zuckmayer managed to get the film re-admitted to screens, albeit in an abridged version.

Work

The artist supervises the installation of her work »Mothers« from the War cycle as a graffiti installation in the building of the Workers’ Welfare Association, Saarbrücken, 1930 (no longer extant), photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist supervises the installation of her work »Mothers« from the War cycle as a graffiti installation in the building of the Workers’ Welfare Association, Saarbrücken, (no longer extant).

history

With the Young Plan, the German government agreed to a new payment scheme for reparations that accommodated the German request for a reduction of the debt burden.

Unemployment figures reached 3.5 million. At the elections for the Reichstag, the National Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP) enjoyed a massive increase in votes.

Opening of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

1931

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Alexander von der Becke (1902-58), 1946, in the foreground the Mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter, photographer unknown, © Galerie Kornfeld, Berne

After the bankruptcy of the Dresden art dealer Emil Richter, Alexander von der Becke (1902-58) in Berlin became the new publisher of Kollwitz’ graphic works.

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Only two years later, in spring 1933, after Hitler had come into power, the first difficulties started. Although his turnover saw a drastic slump, von der Becke carried on until the closure of his business by the Gestapo in 1941. In 1945, the art dealer was able to resume his work. After his death in 1958, his wife Johanna and their son Bernhard ran the firm until 1974.

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Work

Käthe Kollwitz, The Mother (1926-32), The Father (1928-32), plaster, 3rd version, destroyed 1945, © Landesarchiv Berlin

After working on her memorial »Mourning Parents« for 18 years, from 1914 to 1931, Käthe Kollwitz completed a version in plaster and exhibited it at the Prussian Academy of Art.

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This is a great milestone, a very important point in time. I have been working on it for years, in quiet concentration, and let hardly anybody come and have a look – not even Karl and Hans. Now I’m opening the doors wide so that as many people as possible can see it. It is a great step that has caused me worries and anxiety, but it has also made me happy because of the unanimously positive appreciation by my colleagues.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), 22 April 1931

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history

Unemployment figures reached almost 4.5 million.

On 28 March an emergency decree came into force with the aim of combatting political riots. It led to restrictions with regard to right of assembly and freedom of the press.

The KPD organised Hunger Marches in various cities.

During the Kurfürstendamm Riots of 12 September, Jewish shops were damaged by the SA.

1932

Vita

On the occasion of Käthe Kollwitz’ 65th birthday, Otto Nagel (1894-1967) organised an exhibition with 142 works by the artist in Moscow and Leningrad.

Poster ›Urgent Appeal‹, 1932 © bpk, Berlin

Together with her husband Karl Kollwitz and a further 33 public figures including Heinrich Mann, Albert Einstein, Erich Kästner, Ernst Toller and Arnold Zweig, Käthe Kollwitz signs the Urgent Appeal – a poster campaign appealing for the formation of a unity front of the SPD and KPD to thwart a National Socialist majority.


After Hitler came to power in 1933, Käthe and Karl Kollwitz and a further 19 public figures once again issued a last-minute appeal to the left-wing parties to form a union in order to prevent the impending abolition of any personal and political freedom by a National Socialist government.

Death of Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932), the artist’s brother, on 14 October.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, memorial Mourning Parents, 1914-1932, granite, original position at the war cemetery at Roggefelde near Dixmuiden, Belgium, from July 1932 to 1955, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz had the stone version of her sculptures »Mourning Parents« exhibited in the atrium of the Berlin Nationalgalerie.


The same year, this work was installed at the war cemetery in Roggefelde, Belgium.

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The sculptures were executed in Belgian granite after the plaster models by the sculptors August Rhades and Fritz Diederich. This was made possible by a donation of the German Reich and the Prussian State on the occasion of the artist’s 60th birthday in 1927.

Ludwig Justi (1876-1957), director of the Berlin Nationalgalerie, acquired the plaster figures for the Kronprinzenpalais.

The installation of the stone sculptures in Roggefelde near Dixmuide were supervised by Käthe Kollwitz. After the cemetery was closed in 1955, the bodies of the fallen soldiers and the memorial were transferred to the war cemetery at Vladslo-Praedbosch.

In 1957 Joseph Beuys and Erwin Heerich, two of Ewald Mataré’s master pupils, made a copy of the sculptures in shell limestone for the National Memorial Alt St. Alban in Cologne. This copy was reduced by 10% compared with the original.

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As early as 1910, Käthe Kollwitz began to explore the theme of ‘Mother and Child’ in her sculptural work and returned to it again and again without, however, achieving satisfying results.
It was only in 1932, after finishing her work on the memorial »Mourning Parents«, that the project took shape in the »Mother with two Children« sculpture which she finished in 1936 in a plaster version.

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I had already been working on this motif before the war. Then all kinds of things intervened. When I moved from Siegmundshof to the Academy, I had a mould made when the work for the war cemetery was finished. But it had to be changed completely because in the meantime the twins (Jördis and Jutta) had been born and ever since I saw you – a child on each arm – I knew that I had to add another child to the work.«

Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Ottilie Kollwitz of 15 July 1937, from: Briefe an den Sohn (Letters to the Son)

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history

Rise in unemployment figures to more than 6 million in 1932.

At the elections for the Reichstag in July and November the NSDAP became the strongest party.
In several German cities there were violent confrontations between National Socialists and Communists during the May Day celebrations.

Opening of the first motorway connecting Cologne and Bonn.

1933 - 1945 

1933

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Käthe and Karl Kollwitz, 1931, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

On 15 February 1933 Käthe Kollwitz was forced to leave the Prussian Academy of Art.
As in 1932, Käthe and Karl Kollwitz and Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) signed an Urgent Appeal after the National Socialist takeover to support a poster campaign urging left-wing parties to unite for the last free elections on 5 March 1933.

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As a result of their appeal, Heinrich Mann and Käthe Kollwitz were forced to withdraw from the Prussian Academy as the Nazis threatened to close it down otherwise. Martin Wagner (1885-1957), head of the municipal building and control office, left the Academy as an act of solidarity.
Kollwitz’ employment with the State of Prussia, however, continued until her regular retirement date on 15 September 1933. She was allowed to use her studio in Hardenbergstrasse until the beginning of 1934.

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In late March 1933 Käthe and Karl Kollwitz travelled – like many other intellectuals, Communists and Social Democrats – to Marienbad in Czechia to avoid being arrested by the National Socialists.  

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Two weeks later Käthe and Karl Kollwitz returned to Germany and witnessed like-minded friends being arrested or fleeing the country. The artist experienced the persecution of Jews at first hand as her sister Lisbeth Stern (1870-1963) had married into a Jewish family. One of the artist’s major patrons, Max Liebermann (1847-1935), as well as some of her most important collectors, among them Salman Schocken (1877-1959) and Julius Freund (1896-1941) were Jewish.

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As a co-founder of the Social Democratic Association of Physicians, Karl Kollwitz lost his licence to practice as a panel doctor for several months. Her son Hans, also a Social Democrat, was temporarily dismissed from his position as school physician.

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Hans Kollwitz’ house was searched to confiscate books on his mother.

Karl Kollwitz was again threatened with the revocation of his panel licence in 1934 which would have destroyed the family’s livelihood.

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This is the third time that his licence has been revoked, the latest reason given being the fact that he was a member of the League for Human Rights! As he wasn’t – I was a member – their application for revocation will hardly be enforceable. They will have to come up with yet another reason.« 
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Max Lehrs of 12 July 1934, Staatsbibliothek Munich

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Work

Käthe Kollwitz in front of her self-portrait NT 1240, 1933, A. Grimm © bpk Berlin

After the takeover by the National Socialists the artist experienced existential anxiety and created her »Self-portrait in profile, looking left, drawing« NT 1240 as an act of artistic self-reassurance.
In the US, the popularity of Käthe Kollwitz rose continuously.


The Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts organised a Kollwitz exhibition in 1933. In 1934 Harvard University showed prints by the artist, and in 1934/35 there was a countrywide touring Kollwitz exhibition.

history

The Weimar Republic ended on 30 January 1933 with the appointment of Adolf Hitler (1898-1945) as Reichskanzler.

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On 28 February – one day after the Reichstag fire, for which the Communists were blamed – a decree was issued that revoked the basic rights enshrined in the Weimar constitution. Thousands of citizens, mostly Communists, but also Social Democrats, were arrested. Left-wing papers, among them Vorwärts, were henceforth banned.

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On 1 April the first call to boycott Jewish shops, banks, doctors and lawyers was issued.

On 10 May books were burned in almost all big cities in Germany – these events were mostly well organised and had been systematically prepared.

On 22 June the SPD was declared a subversive, anti-popular organisation and consequently banned.y banned.

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Over the course of the following weeks 3,000 Social Democrats were arrested. The first concentration camps for political dissidents – above all Social Democrats and Communists – were built as early as March, among them the camps at Oranienburg near Berlin and at Dachau.

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By 14 July all the parties except the NSDAP had been banned or had been voluntarily dissolved.

1934

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Käthe Kollwitz in her studio at Klosterstrasse, 1937, photo: Georg Tietzsch, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After Käthe Kollwitz had had to leave her studio at the Academy of Art, she rented a workshop at the Klosterstrasse Studio House from autumn 1934 to 1940.
Despite an indirect exhibition-ban, the artist regularly participated in the annual exhibitions at the Klosterstrasse Studios from 1935 until 1938. She was, however, compelled to exchange works several times as these had been rejected by the ›Reich Chamber of Culture‹.

For her younger colleagues, she served as a model of integrity and perseverance.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Death reaching into a group of children, folio 3 of the cycle »Death«, 1934, chalk and brush lithograph, Kn 266, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After leaving her studio at the Academy of Art, Käthe Kollwitz started work on her last print cycle, »Death«, in spring 1934. Five of its folios were shown at the autumn exhibition of the Academy of Art.


From October she interrupted work on the cycle to refocus on her sculpture »Mother with two Children« at her new workshop at the Klosterstrasse Studio House.

history

In the night of 30 June to 1 July, leading figures of the SA including chief of staff Ernst Röhm were murdered at Hitler’s command. National Socialist propaganda later presented the event as a preventative measure to thwart an allegedly imminent putsch – the so-called Röhm-Putsch.

In the Saar region, 90% of voters opted for reintegration into the German Reich.

1935

Vita

On 8 February Käthe Kollwitz attended the funeral of Max Liebermann (1847-1935) who had been ostracised because of his Jewish background.

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The general public in Berlin hardly took any notice of the death of their honorary citizen. The Academy of Art refused to pay any tribute to their former president. Apart from family and friends, there were only four artists following Liebermann’s coffin at the Jewish cemetery at Schönhauser Platz – Käthe Kollwitz, Hans Purrmann, Konrad von Kardorff and Leo Klein von Diepold. When the Jewish Museum in Berlin organised a commemorative exhibition in 1936 which non-Jews were not allowed to visit, Käthe Kollwitz ignored the ban.

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Werk

In spring 1935, works by Käthe Kollwitz were removed from the exihibition Berliner Kunst at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich and from an exhibition in Düsseldorf in winter 1935/36. In both cases the works were removed shortly before the exhibitions opened.

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Few art dealers, among them Ackermann & Sauerwein in Munich, had the courage to offer Kollwitz’ graphic works in their catalogues well into World War II. As a result, her income dried up and she and her husband were increasingly forced to resort to their savings.

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Käthe Kollwitz, family tomb with the relief »Rest in the Peace of His Hands«, 1935/36, bronze, installed 1936, cemetery Berlin Friedrichsfelde, photo: Hohlfeld © Ullstein

Between 1935 and 1936 Kollwitz created the bronze relief »Rest in the Peace of His Hands«, S 30, for her own family tomb. 

The siblings Konrad Schmidt (1863-1932), Käthe Kollwitz and Lisbeth Stern (1870-1963) jointly bought a tomb for themselves and their spouses at the central cemetery in Berlin Friedrichsfelde. After the death of her husband in 1934, Lisbeth Stern asked her sister to create a sculptural work, which Käthe Kollwitz did with the bronze relief she made in 1935/36. As the cemetery became part of East Berlin in the GDR after 1945, it was not possible to bury Lisbeth Stern there in 1963.

history

The first series of air-raid drills with simulated air alerts and brownouts took place in Berlin in March.

On 15 September the anti-semitic Nuremberg Laws were passed.

The reintroduction of compulsory military service and the establishment of an army of 580,000 troops meant that Hitler was in breach of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Wunder des Lebens (miracles of life) exhibition that opened in Berlin was a large-scale propaganda show to spread the race theory of the Nazis.

The exhibition Frau und Volk (woman and nation) that opened in Düsseldorf emphasised the role of women as mothers and ›household leaders‹.

1936

Vita

An article about Käthe Kollwitz in the government-controlled Isvestija newspaper in Moscow falsely claimed that the artist had been in a major financial crisis since the takeover of the Nazis. These claims led to Käthe Kollwitz being interviewed by the Gestapo who threatened to send her to a concentration camp.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz in front of the large »Mother with two Children« sculpture, ca 1937, in her studio in Klosterstrasse, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Kollwitz finished her sculpture »Mother with two Children«, S 29, and had the plaster model cast in cement.

On the evening before the opening of the exhibition Berlin Sculptors from Schlüter to the Present Day on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Academy of Art the works by Käthe Kollwitz and Ernst Barlach were removed.

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This strange silence when my works were removed from the Academy Exhibition and then from the Kronprinzenpalais. Hardly anybody has anything to say to me about this. I had thought that people would come or at least write to me – but no. Such strange silence surrounding me – it is something that has to be experienced.«

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), November 1936

Among the works by Kollwitz that were to be exhibited at the Kronprinzenpalais was a plaster cast of the mother figure from the »Mourning Parents«. The upper floor of that venue which houses two sculptures by the artist was closed by the National Socialists on 30 October, but was still accessible for interested visitors.

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history

The conquest of a new Lebensraum (lit. living space) was the most urgent priority of Nazi foreign policy.

On 7 March 1936, 30,000 army troops crossed the Rhine bridges thus beginning the German invasion of the demilitarised Rhineland. By occupying a 50-km wide zone, Hitler was both in breach of the Treaty of Versailes of 1919 and the Locarno Pact of 1925.

Olympic Games in Berlin

In a decree of 27 November Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), in his role as president of the ›Reich Chamber of Culture‹, banned any form of art criticism. In future there would only be the official art coverage.

1937

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz on her 70th birthday, 8 July, 1937, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Celebration of Käthe Kollwitz’ birthday on 8 July 1937.

Work

All plans for anniversary exhibitions in honour of the artist were thwarted in Nazi Germany.

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After Käthe Kollwitz had been banned from taking part in the anniversary exhibition at the Academy of Art in 1936, the renowned Nierenhof Gallery in Berlin revoked their pledge to stage an exhibition in commemoration of the artist’s 70th birthday.

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The last project at Nierendorf, which seemed to be absolutely certain to go ahead, […] has again disappeared into thin air. Cancelled – always the same reason. I find it really hard to get used to the thought that I, whose participation had been an honour in the past, now have to remain silent. I think I have finally understood.«

Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Anni Karbe of 13 February 1937, from: Ich will wirken in dieser Zeit, 1981

The bookshop Karl Buchholz in Berlin was banned from staging the Kollwitz exhibition by the Chamber of Culture. Individual visitors were, however, given permission to visit the presentation, access to which was by a flight of stairs that was hidden behind a curtain.


Käthe Kollwitz eventually presented roughly 60 works of graphic art at her work rooms at the Klosterstrasse Studio House.

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Jake Zeitlin bookshop and gallery, 1937, photographer unknown, © Courtesy Eric Lloyd Wright

In the US, by contrast, interest in Kollwitz’ works grew continuously. In 1937 and 1939 galleries in New York and Los Angeles presented her works.


The Berne art dealer and author of the first complete catalogue raisonné of Käthe Kollwitz’ prints, August Klipstein (1885-1951), won the approval of the gallerist Hudson Walker (1907-1976) to stage an exhibition of her prints in New York. In Los Angeles, the book dealer Jake (Jacob) Zeitlin (1902-1987) organised a small travelling exhibition of the artist’s works.

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From 1938 onwards, more art dealers began to advocate the work of Käthe Kollwitz in the US, among them Curt Valentin (1902-1954) at the New York Buchholz Gallery, and from 1943 Otto Kallir (1894-1987), manager of the Galerie St. Etienne in New York, took a particular interest in her.  


American museums and collectors such as Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891-1979) built up substantial Kollwitz collections with their assistance.

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I am of course delighted that a terrain seems to be opening up for my work in America. I was naturally somewhat depressed to realise that in his country you are already regarded as deceased, or rather as someone who no longer has a right to live. Being ignored and kept under wraps – that was their method. Now something is blossoming on the other side of the Atlantic, which I find gratifying.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Dr Löhnberg of 6 May 1937, from: Briefe der Freundschaft (Letters of Friendship)

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Encouraged by her first exhibition successes in the US, Käthe Kollwitz relaunched her work on her print series »Death« which she had interrupted in 1934.

Käthe Kollwitz, Mother with two Children, model 1932-1936, copy by Fritz Diederich, 1949, shell limestone, Berlin, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist had her sculpture »Mother with two Children«, S 29, executed in shell limestone by the sculptor Erich Geisler (1901-1983) in the inner courtyard of the Klosterstrasse Studio House. Kollwitz financed the work with money made available by her friend and painter Leo von König (1871-1944). This stone version was lost in World War II.

In 1949 the municipal authorities of East Berlin had a copy made in shell limestone by Fritz Diederich (1869-1951) and installed it in Kollwitzstrasse where the artist’s house was before it was destroyed in 1943.

Käthe Kollwitz, Soldiers’ Wives waving Farewell II, bronze, 1937-38, S32, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After completing the sculpture »Mother with two Children« she created mainly small-scale sculptures between 1937 and 1943 as these – according to the artist – would not hurt her heirs and did not cost much. Besides, she said, they could be produced in any room and did not exceed her strength.


Kollwitz worked in parallel on the »Soldiers’ Wives waving Farewell«, 2nd version, S 32, the »Tower of Mothers«, S 35, and the »Pietà«, S 37.

history

Attack by the German air force on the Spanish town of Guernica.

Opening of the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich

1938

Vita

On 27 October Käthe Kollwitz travelled to Güstrow to attend the funeral service for Ernst Barlach (1870-1938).

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t so happened that I arrived at his house and in his studio before the others […]. The coffin is in the middle of the room. He has been laid out in a solemnly opulent fashion. A black carpet and white atlas blankets. Barlach is tiny. He is lying there, his head bent to one side, as if he wanted to hide himself. His outstretched hands placed next to each other are very small and bony. On the walls around him his silent figures […]. Above the coffin the mask of the Güstrow cathedral angel.«

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), Oktober 1938

In Güstrow she met Barlach’s friend Hermann F. Reemstma (1892-1961). This art dealer and patron tried to support Kollwitz in the years to come by acquiring a number of her drawings from the Berlin Buchholz Gallery which became the basis of his important Kollwitz collection.

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The artist was deeply shocked by the events of the Pogrom Night.

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During the Pogrom – in 1938 – I was in my studio in Klosterstrasse. From there I went to Königsstrasse where all those atrocities had already happened. When I returned home, Karl was away. He had gone to the Jewish quarter. It was one of the most horrific things I have ever experienced. Karl told me what he had seen. He often halted and spoke in a faltering voice.«

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), The years 1914-1933 to the turning point (1943)

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work

Käthe Kollwitz, The Lament, bronze, 1938-1941, S 38, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

After the funeral, Käthe Kollwitz made a drawing from her memory of the dead Ernst Barlach (1870-1938) lying in the open coffin.

Her mourning was also expressed in her work on the bronze relief »The Lament«, S 38, which she completed in 1940.

Friedrich Bursch, after Käthe Kollwitz, tombstone with relief for Franz Levy, 1938, marble, Jewish cemetery, Cologne Bocklemünd, photo: Annette Seeler © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The artist received a commission for the design of a »Tombstone for Franz Levy«, S 34B, at the Jewish cemetery in Cologne Bocklemünd.

Franz Levy (1892-1937) was a member of the board of the Cologne-based department store chain Leonhard Tietz AG. Being Jewish, he was forced to leave the company in 1934. He founded his own business consultancy firm and eventually emigrated to Britain.
Despite the increasing persecution of Jews, Käthe Kollwitz managed to accept the commission by Levy’s widow Doris Levy.

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In December 1938 she wrote that the motif of the »clasping hands” had been intended to express the »feeling of indestructible solidarity«, also with regard to the Pogrom of 9 November:

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I have again and again thought of you, dear Mrs Levy. My thoughts not only go to your husband’s tomb, but also to you. Believe me, we all suffered deeply together. We feel pain and shame and outrage.«

Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Doris Levy of Devember 1938, in: Käthe Kollwitz, Die Plastik - Werkverzeichnis

The plaster relief was re-created as a stone version by the sculptor Friedrich Bursch from Hamburg who had contributed to the Barlach memorial in Hamburg in 1931.

Bursch had already reworked the shell limestone sculpture »Mother with two Children« from 1937 which was destroyed in World War II.

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history

In March, German and Austrian National Socialists instigated the Annexation of Austria into the German Reich.

The Munich Agreement of October 1938 led to the Sudeten-German areas being ceded to the Reich.

During the Reichspogromnacht on 9 November, the persecution of Jews before the Second World War reached a sad climax. This was followed by unprecedented discrimination and exclusion of Jews from public life.

The Degenerate Art in Berlin campaign meant that henceforth works of art could be seized without compensation.

1939

Vita

Dr Karl Kollwitz, April 1939, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940) had to give up his surgery for health reasons.

history

After the annexation of the Sudetenland and parts of Slovakia into the German Reich in 1938, German troops occupied the remaining territory of the Czechoslovakian Republic in March 1939 within the framework of the military campaign Break-up of the rump of Czechoslovakia.

The German attack on Poland on 1 September triggered World War II.

1940

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz, Dr Karl Kollwitz, c 1938/39, black chalk on Ingres laid paper, NT 1280, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Death of Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940) on 19 July.

Peter Kollwitz (1921-1942), the artist’s grandson was drafted for the campaign against France.

For health reasons, Käthe Kollwitz gave up her studio in Klosterstrasse.

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I gave up my studio in Klosterstrasse […] and moved everything into my own flat. This seems appropriate given my current condition. As my strength has declined very much – I use a walking stick when I go down into the street etc. – I would only occasionally be able to go to the studio from here. But here, in my own home, where my workroom is also my bedroom, where everything I need is handy and close by, I manage to work for half an hour or so when I feel strong enough.« 
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Sella Hasse of 10 May 1941, from: Diary sheets and letters

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Clara Stern (1890-), the niece of Georg Stern, the deceased husband of her sister Lisbeth, lived in the flat in Weissenburgerstrasse after the death of Karl Kollwitz and looked after the artist.

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Farewell, bronze, 1940/41, S 39, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The small-scale sculpture »Farewell«, S 39, was created between 1940 and 1941.

Aware that the death of her husband Karl Kollwitz (1863-1940) was close – since a severe illness in 1939 his strength had declined visibly – the artist began work on a bronze group in February 1940 which she finished in early April 1941. This small group – like almost all other bronze works by the artist from 1940 onwards – was cast by the Noack foundry in Berlin Friedenau.

Fritz Diederich, after Käthe Kollwitz, grave relief for Kurt Breysig, 1941-43, shell limestone, cemetery at Bergholz-Rehbrücke near Potsdam, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

At the same time, the artist worked on a commission for a grave relief for Kurt Breysig (1866-1940).

Gertrud Breysig, the widow of the historian, commissioned Käthe Kollwitz after her husband’s death in 1940. Kurt Breysig had been held in great esteem by the artist’s son during the period of the youth movement before the First World War.
The sculptor Fritz Diederich (1869-1951), who had also executed the mother figure for the »Mourning Parents« memorial in stone on behalf of the artist, executed the stone version in 1943.

history

Germany’s western campaign in May 1940 ended with the capitulation of the Netherlands on 15 May, Belgium on 28 May and the separation of France into an occupied and non-occupied part on 26 June.

Construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland in May 1940 by the SS.

First allied air raids on Berlin in June 1940.

1941

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz was hit by an almost complete lack of income. Apart from a monthly sum of 120 marks, sent to her by her editor Alexander von der Becke (1902-1958) for signing prints before the Gestapo closed his publishing house, she had hardly any other earnings.

The artist wrote her autobiographical work Rückblick (retrospective).

Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Seeds for sowing must not be ground, 1941, chalk lithograph (transfer), Kn 274, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

The lithograph »Seeds for sowing must not be ground«, Kn 274, was created as Kollwitz’ artistic legacy.
The title, taken from a passage in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, is another reference to the artist’s anti-war stance. 
In 1918, shortly before the end of the First World War, she had opposed Richard Dehmel’s Appeal for a final push to win the war, which was addressed to potential volunteers, in an open letter. In 1941 she took up the motif for two works in relief and for the lithograph again.

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I have once again decided – for the 3rd time – to take up the same motif and said to Hans a few days ago: this is my legacy: ‘Seeds for sowing must not be ground’ […]. This, like the demand ‘Never Again War’ is not a sentimental wish, but a demand, a command.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, Tagebücher (Diaries), Dezember 1941

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history

On 22 June the Germans attacked the USSR without any declaration of war.

For the first time, Nazi judges passed death sentences for listening to foreign radio stations.

1942

Vita

Peter Kollwitz (1921-1942), the artist’s grandson, 1941, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

On 22 September, Peter Kollwitz (1921-1942), the artist’s eldest grandson, fell in Russia.

Work

In the winter of 1941/42 Käthe Kollwitz created her last graphic work, the »Portrait of Cläry Bartning«, Kn 275, as a lithograph.

history

At the Wannsee Conference on 20 January, the Final Solution of the Jewish Question – the deportation and extermination of Jews – was decided.

On 20 April, women were compelled to work in armament factories.

The Führer’s Command was declared supreme legal authority.

1943

Vita

Residence in Nordhausen, c 1943, photographer unknown, Kollwitz estate, © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

In August, Käthe Kollwitz accepted the invitation of the sculptress Margret Böning (1911-1995) to come to Nordhausen, a small town in Thuringia, which had not yet been as afflicted by air raids as Berlin. Her sister Lisbeth Stern (1870-1963) and her daughter Katharina (1897-1984) as well as Clara Stern (1890-unknown), Georg Stern’s niece, were also invited.

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Until now I had thought that leaving would be impossible considering my physical state, but now I’m thinking if it might be possible. I have been offered accommodation in Nordhausen […] and as my sister, who is very dear to me, may come with me, I may pluck up courage […]. I would certainly not leave, but the prospect of facing the final catastrophe of this war here in Berlin is a ghastly idea. The final few horrific battles seem to be approaching with giant strides.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Hanna Bekker vom Rath of 27 July 1943, Hanna Bekker vom Rath
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The Kollwitz home, destroyed in air raids on 3 December 1943, photographer unknown © Museum Pankow picture archives

On 23 November the home in Weissenburgstrasse, where the artist had lived for many years, was destroyed in an air raid. On 3 December the house of her son Hans in Berlin was also destroyed.
The destruction of the home in Berlin, where Käthe Kollwitz had lived for 51 years, meant that many of her works were lost, including almost all the early paintings and many drawings. Works that were in her son’s house were also destroyed.
During the previous months, Margret Böning (1911-1995) and Clara Stern (1890-unknown) managed to take a large number of graphic works to a safe place in Nordhausen where they were examined and signed by the artist.

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After discarding numerous prints […] there remains a good number of high-quality works all of which I have now signed […]. I would like to see everything preserved that carries my thumbprint and has a vivid connection to my inner life. I only want to discard the things that I do not regard as successful. Thus a relatively large collection remains, particularly bearing in mind that there are a lot of works stored somewhere else. This is in line with what I have often been asked: Why do you produce such a large quantity of your print editions? […] I answered: Because I want to work for a large public.« 

Käthe Kollwitz, Letter to Hans of 10 December 1943, in: Briefe an den Sohn (Letters to the Son)

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Work

Käthe Kollwitz, Two Soldiers’ Wives waiting, bronze, autumn 1941 to summer 1943, S 43, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Before moving to Nordhausen, Kollwitz completed her last small-scale sculpture »Two Soldiers’ Wives waiting«, S 43.

history

The defeat of the 6th German army in Stalingrad in winter 1942/43 marked a turning point in the war.

On 18 February the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) proclaimed Total War at a speech in the Sportpalast.

The resistance activists of the Weisse Rose, Hans Scholl (1918-1943) and Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) were arrested on 22 February and sentenced to death.

On 19 April Jewish prisoners rebelled against their deportation to extermination camps during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

On 10 June the allied forces launched a combined air raid offensive - with British planes operating at night and Americans during the day.

1944

Vita

Rüdenhof near Moritzburg, view from the garden, after 1945, photo: Döring © SLUB/Deutsche Fotothek

The increasing number of air raids on Nordhausen made it necessary to move. On 20 July Käthe Kollwitz accepted the invitation of Prinz Heinrich von Sachsen (1896-1971) to move to Moritzburg near Dresden. The artist moved and occupied two rooms at the Rüdenhof.
In 1943, the Prince had already taken two portfolios with drawings by Käthe Kollwitz into safekeeping.

Since 1995 – the 50th anniversary year of her death – Rüdenhof has been a memorial site for the artist and given the name »Käthe Kollwitz Haus Moritzburg«.

Kollwitz suffered a mild stroke and wrote farewell letters.

Work

Memorial for Reinhold Beck, Wilhelm Schönfeld, after the model of Käthe Kollwitz’ Pietà, 1944, shell limestone, Waldfriedhof cemetery, Stuttgart Degerloch, photo: Hannelore Fischer © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz gave permission to the Stuttgart collector Paul Beck (1887-1949) to have her sculpture »Pietà« (1937-1939) executed in roughly twice the original size by the Stuttgart sculptor Schönfeld. This stone sculpture was for Paul Beck’s son Reinhold who died as a result of his war injuries. The installation of this memorial at the Waldfriedhof cemetery in Stuttgart Degerloch took place as late as 1948 – three years after the artist’s death.

history

Beginning of the allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June.

On 20 July there was a failed assassination attempt on Hitler. The explosive charge, which had been primed and deposited at the Führer’s Headquarters at Wolfsschanze on the occasion of a meeting by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (1907-1944), only caused minor injuries.

1945

Vita

Käthe Kollwitz’ death chamber in Rüdenhof, summer 1945, photo: Erich Höhne, Erich Pohl © SLUB/Deutsche Fotothek

Death of Käthe Kollwitz in Rüdenhof, Moritzburg, on 22 April – a few days before the end of the war .


After the death of their grandmother, the twin-granddaughters Jördis and Jutta, who had cared for her until her death, managed to save most of the artist’s graphic works that she had taken with her to Moritzburg.

In September, the urn with her ashes was taken to Berlin and buried in the family tomb at the central cemetery in Berlin Friedrichsfelde.

history

On 8 May the Supreme Army Command signed Germany’s unconditional surrender and thus put an end to World War II.

Address

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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).