Kollwitz is known in the western world for her powerful sketches and sculptures of mothers and children ,protests ,injustice and death. Her art influenced by the death of her son in 1914 portrays many images if mothers with children in nurturing situation, mothers together or mothers expressing heart-break and emotion. Kollwitz excelled in a typically male dominated field of art Kollwitz has been considered the master of her craft ‘Könnerin’ since her work went through many phrases such as ‘conventional, unconventional, conservation, progressive’ (14:1992) and finally reflecting her unresolved issues that occurred in her life.
Kollwitz produced most of her work in the ‘weimar years’ and then continued throughout the war until 1936 when her exhibitions and works were removed from all galleries when Germany was under Nazi power. Her diary was found containing reflection and observation of everyday day one included
‘i saw a nurse maid with two children. The older boy was two and half was the most sensitive child that i have ever seen…on his little face and his little thin body were constantly reflected expressions from the outside world’ (91:1992)
This suggests at humble and touching moments in such a conflicting time and place could still be witnessed and possible influenced her series of mother and child sketches, showing a hint of hope and optimism not just the grief of her son.
- 1902 – Starts work on the Peasant of war series
- 1914 – her son falls in the war.
- 1919/20 – woodcut dedicated to Karl Liebknicht
- 1922-25 – War and Proletariat series
- 1923 – The Survivors
- 1932 – Dedication war memorial at Flanders’s cemetery
- 1934/34 – Deaths (series of lithographs)
- 1936 – Her works removed from exhibitions (nazi’s rule)
- 1945 – Kollwitz dies
She produced a number of self portraits aging from youth to old age, these are mostly sketches although there also sculptures too, the images portray a pensive expression suggesting the jaded mood of her work which reflect her struggles in life. Most of these images are kept on exhibition inthe Kathe Kollwitz museum in Berlin.
One of the less known self portraits is ‘Selbsstbildnis’ (1938) one of the more aged images, estimated to be in her 70’s this sketches is taken from a different angle compared to the face portrays, the image is from the side depicting an old woman hunched over shown almost as a silhouette , representing old age and grief.
The Mothers 1922/23
Part of the ‘war’ series this sculpture depicts the a group of mother supporting each other Kollwitz described this as ‘the mother’s in a circle defending their children as a sculpture in the round’ (20:1980) this dwells on one of the key themes in her work mothers and children. The rest of ‘war’ series was actually completed by other artist, Kollwitz series depicts the war not a violent spectacle that it was but from the perspective of home life so mother and child and the notion of sacrifice.
Gedenkblatt fur Karl Liebknecht (In memorian Karl Liebknecht)
Memorial sheet to karl liebknecht
In 1919 Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luzemberg were murdered in the lead up to the formation of the Weimar Republic, Kollwitz was asked to draw sketched of the leader and of his memorial too to produce an honest image of Liebknecht she read all the letter to him from workers and observed the funeral procession finally producing an etching, woodcuts and print s of the iconic day. She dedicated the woodcut to ‘those who live to him who die’ referring to the victims of revolution. This is the only other publicly commissioned piece of her art the other is the memorial for her son.
Werner, Tim , Kathe Kollwitz The world of art, 1980 Henschelverlag Kunst und Gesellschaft,DDR Berlin
Prelinger, Elizabeth, Kathe Kollwitz, national gallery of Art, 1992,