kathe kolwitz

The Culture That Shaped Kollwitz

German born Kathe Kollwitz was brought up in an environment of great political and religious significance. Her father a socialist and her grandfather a independent minister who was expelled from the church. Kollwitz’s father quickly recognised her skill for drawing and offered encouragement towards artistic pursuits. Kathe Kollwitz married at 23 to a doctor by the name of Karl Kollwitz.The couple lived in a working class district of Berlin for most of their lives. It was here where Kolltwitz developed her strong social conscience. These strong social beliefs are very fiercely represented in her work. Due to her husbands line of work her life was marred by heartache and despair. Kollwitz work is also an expression of her horrific life experiences. Loosing one son in World War I and a Grandson in World War II, this is most definitely the reason for her artwork\'s subject to be so commonly about war and explains her passion when it comes to letting others become aware of the terror of war.

author not credited www.kollwitz.de/kappl/kollwitz.htm

Living in one of the poorest regions of Berlin also caused Kollwitz to witness the hardship of the life of many of the needy people. Her artworks were seen as a threat by Nazi officials and in 1943 her house was bombed by the Nazis. Her artwork\'s subjects included the working class rebellion, poverty and the atrocities of war. Working at a time when most artist’s used their work to explore formal problems, Kollwitz used her art as a means of exploring the human condition. Her first works being of a more naturalistic style and her later works expressionalist. Her works about war tend to be the more expressionalistic ones. She used no colour and her simplification forced a clear image onto the viewer. The highly stylistic approach gave the viewer little time to question the meaning an almost an instant recognition of the meaning. Kollwitz works projected the emotion of the scene almost immediately into the view.

author not credited www.dhm.de/lemo/html/biografien/KollwitzKaethe/index.html

Printmaking was the ideal form of media for her works. Not only did printmaking mean that she could make multiple copies of her work, but it also allowed for a quick duplication. The convenience of printmaking allowed Kollwitz’s work to become well known amongst the poverty stricken people of Berlin, as her work spread quickly. Kollwitz purpose was to show the poverty stricken that some knew of the atrocities that they were experiencing, and that they were not alone. She worked also in hope that someone in power would be moved by her work, and maybe it would make a differance. Printmaking was the ideal form of media for her artistic purpose.

Kollwitz earlier works such as “Conspiracy” are graphic, naturalistic documentations of history. For the purpose naturalism was a excellent style but when Kollwitz subject changed so did her style. Kollwitz style changed to the less detailed expressionalism, in works like “Outbreak” she used this style to depict the horror of war, and the affect it was having on the people she came in contact with every day. Her expressionalist works are highly emotional, and the viewer is given a piece of what it is to experance the loss of war. Expressionalism is an excellent tool for portraying emotion and Kollwitz used it as a cry from the lower class, so that maybe someone could be moved.

Kollwitz successfully portrayed the culture which she had become evolved in, her work is a reflection of her beliefs and values. These values have been learnt though life experience, and passed down from past generations.

Ralph E Shikes The Indigant Eye


Ralph E S, Shikes The Indigant Eye
Gordon,P (1976) Printmakers Guild Canada Press Co.
Author not credited Kathe Kollwitz www.dhm.de/lemo/html/biografien/KollwitzKaethe/index.html
Garebe, C Kollwitz.de www.kollwitz.de/kappl/kollwitz.htm