Kathe Kollwitz Biography

Kathe Kollwitz




Käthe Kollwitz, painter, printmaker and sculptor, was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia on July 8, 1867. At the age of twelve, her father arranged for private art lessons and later sent her to an art school for women in Berlin. Käthe was engaged at seventeen to Karl Kollwitz, a physician, whom she married in 1891. That same year she began studying art in Berlin with Karl Stauffer-Bern and was introduced to the work of his friend Max Klinger, whose prints inspired her. She made her first three etchings in 1890 which were received with critical acclaim.

Kollwitz's first son, Hans, was born in 1892 and her second son, Peter, was born in 1896. Peter was killed in action in Flanders in 1917 and, in 1919, she began working in the woodcut medium, which led to the series "War" in 1922. Her work moved from the political realm into the humanist realm, depicting grief, poverty, and death as well an on-going set of self-portraits.

In 1936, Hitler banned her work from being exhibited in Germany but, because of her fame, she could not be incarcerated. Her husband died in 1940 and her grandson, Peter, was killed in action in 1942. Her home was bombed in 1943 and many of her prints and plates were destroyed. Kollwitz died in Mortizburg, Germany a few days before the Armistice on April 22, 1945.

Kathe Kollwitz is considered one of the greatest German artists of the 20th century and her artwork will remain relevant as long as humans struggle for a living wage, nations wage war on other nations, religions battle religions, and mothers grieve for their children.