Article Data
Author: Ray Hahn
Affiliation: South Jersey Postcard Club
Written: August 2002

Publication history:
            First: SJPCC Newsletter, October 2002

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Number of words: 340 including captions on illustrations
Illustrations: 1 Photograph, 2 postcards

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)

            Mrs. Kollwitz is considered one of the greatest women artists all time. She is often talked about in discussions of modern German art, but actually belonged to an earlier generation. Considering that in 1917, she celebrated her fiftieth birthday with an exhibition at a famous gallery in Berlin, she much more belongs to the 19th century than the twentieth.
            Her father encouraged his daughter's talent for drawing and arranged for private instruction before sending her to art school for women in Berlin - quite progressive for the 1880s.
            After her marriage to Dr. Karl Kollwitz in 1891, misery was a daily visitor to her home because they lived in an impoverished section of Berlin. Kollwitz was a Socialist who wanted her art to have an effect on the way ordinary people viewed their world and hoped it would move people to action.

            I first saw Kollwitz's work at the Smithsonian (National Gallery of Art) about twenty years ago. I recently found a set of ten postcards that I bought as souvenirs. Here are two examples.
An 1890s self-portrait with her son Peter.
A 1931 self-portrait with her grandson Peter.

            I'm not sure how her art has effected anyone I know, but there are certainties in her drawings: joy is present, but there is also great pain. It was clear to those who knew her, that Käthe Kollwitz was in pain - the pain that is caused by loneliness. Her son Peter died in World War I and her grandson Peter died in World War II. As a result, Kollwitz suffered extreme bouts of depression most of her life.
            When Hitler rose to power in 1933, she was forced to resign her Berlin Academy of Art membership but was never forbidden to work or was she officially classified as "Degenerate." By 1936, however, she was forbidden to exhibit and some of her works were removed from museums and galleries. In 1943, she left Berlin for Mortizburg and died there just days before the end of the war.

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