“There is not a line of her work which fails to make its comment, which does not cry aloud and indict, which does not expose the petty laws of society.”
Kathe Kollwitz” concern for the plight of humanity began in early childhood, when she became absorbed with the daily routine of the various labourers at her father’s brick factory. Then came marriage to a doctor whose patients were mainly poor, followed by the loss of her only son to the First World War. Unlike so many artists, Kollwitz was never at a loss for subject matter or style—her aim was the mastery of technique best suited for her purpose. To say she achieved this would be an understatement—Kathe Kollwitz is widely considered one of the greatest printmakers of all time.
Encouraged by her
liberal-minded father to pursue her artistic inclinations, Kathe
Kollwitz studied privately with a copper engraver
before enrolling, in 1885, in the School for Women Artists in
As a printmaker and a socialist, Kollwitz hoped to improve the lives of her intended audience, the working class, by moving them to action. Her etchings were painstakingly worked and re-worked until she was satisfied. Eventually, she found lithography more satisfactory for her purposes, and by 1920 her interest had turned to the re-emerging woodcut.
Kathe Kollwitz became the first female professor and member of
The death of Kollwitz’ son Peter in 1914 had fuelled much of her anti-war sentiments. This did not prevent her losing her grandson, to yet another war, in 1942. Kollwitz’ tribute — a lithograph, entitled “Seed Corn Must Not Be Ground”— was her final protest.