Social Criticism

From 1908 onwards Käthe Kollwitz worked for the satirical weekly Simplicissimus by regularly sending drawings to the publishers in Munich. Working for this popular magazine of the German Reich period was considered a badge of honour and a milestone in the career of every graphic artist. Among the magazine’s contributors were artists such as Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Thomas Theodor Heine and Karl Arnold.

The publishers gave Käthe Kollwitz plenty of rope with regard to choice of topics and graphic design. The socially critical stance of Simplicissimus gave her the opportunity to address the tragedies of life in the big cities – both the blatantly obvious and the quiet, hidden ones. Her drawings for the magazine include themes such as starvation, infant mortality, cottage work for women, and unemployment and its consequences. The publishers reserved the right to add titles and caustic captions to some of her works.

After Käthe Kollwitz had started working for Simplicissimus, she no longer used literary of historical sources as inspiration for her works, as had been the case for the cycles »A Weavers’ Revolt« and »Peasants War«. There is an explanation for this decision in her autobiographical notes:

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[…] When I learned about the tragic hardships of the proletariat through my husband […] I was strongly gripped by their plight […]. Unsolved problems such as prostitution and unemployment tortured and upset me, and this contributed to my commitment to depicting the common people again and again. For me, this was a safety valve and possibility to stomach this life.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Diaries, Retrospection, 1941

Works

Käthe Kollwitz, Unemployment, 1909, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 104 VI d, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Unemployment, 1909, line etching, drypoint, aquatint, sandpaper and soft ground with imprint of Ziegler's transfer paper, Kn 104 VI d

Käthe Kollwitz, Warm Shelter, 1908/1909, black crayon, pen and brush with ink and sepia on olive-green paper, white highlights in the background, NT (469a), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Warm Shelter, 1908/1909, black crayon, pen and brush with ink and sepia on olive-green paper, white highlights in the background, NT (469a)

Käthe Kollwitz, The Street, charcoal and ink on laid paper, NT 464, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, The Street, charcoal and ink on laid paper, NT 464

Käthe Kollwitz, At the Doctor’s, sheet 3 of the series »Images of Misery«, 1908/1909, black crayon on Ingres paper, NT 475, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, At the Doctor’s, sheet 3 of the series »Images of Misery«, 1908/1909, black crayon on Ingres paper, NT 475

Käthe Kollwitz, Bread!, final version, 1924, crayon lithograph (transfer), Kn 208 III, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Bread!, final version, 1924, crayon lithograph (transfer), Kn 208 III

Käthe Kollwitz, Pregnant Woman, drowning herself, c 1926, charcoal, NT (1114a), Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz, Pregnant Woman, drowning herself, c 1926, charcoal, NT (1114a)

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

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

Address

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Neumarkt 18-24 / Neumarkt Passage

50667 Köln

+49 (0)221 227 2899

+49 (0)221 227 2602

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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).