Kathe Kollwitz
January 2, 2008 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I saw Tower of Mothers when it was at the Smithsonian many years ago.

If people could really act like that, we'd be set.

Great post, Brandon!
posted by John of Michigan at 9:34 AM on January 2, 2008

Nice. I bet these are spectacular in person. Prints lose a lot of richness in reproductions like this.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 10:32 AM on January 2, 2008

You can preview the book "Prints and Drawings of Kathe Kollwitz", which has very good reproductions of a few of the prints from the book. I highly recommend a physical copy, well worth it, for larger versions of stuff like this.

She had two boys, one of them killed in WWI and the a grandson of her other son was killed in WWII, so her stance on war isn't surprising. I read in some of her letters that much of her art was a search for a way of talking to her dead son, which explains a lot of the emotion behind them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:45 AM on January 2, 2008

Nice post—thanks!
posted by languagehat at 11:03 AM on January 2, 2008

If you're ever in Berlin, I recommend checking out the K├Ąthe Kollwitz Museum. In 1997, I was in an art museum in Dresden (near where she once lived) and was fortunate enough to sit down with a pad of paper to sketch her haunting self-made bust.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:39 AM on January 2, 2008

"The Grieving Parents" in the Flickr photo linked above were semi-portraits. Kollwitz' husband, a doctor, is made a peasant here, a stoic lump of grief, but he is recognizable. The mother's self-portrait less so, but similar to other self-portraits that she did. They were originally at the cemetery for dead soldiers of many nations at Roggevelde before being moved, when Peter's body was moved, to the German cemetery at Vladsloe. Kollwitz used to travel to Roggevelde and tend her son's grave. One time in the 1930s she wrote in her diary about the roses that had been planted there and how they had spread to flower on both German and allied graves. That night, in her hotel room, she had a dream, a vision, really. She saw that there was going to be another war. That it would be as terrible as the last. That many would die. Unless, she wrote in her diary, unless she did everything she could to stop it. Of course Kathe Kollwitz lacked the power to stop that war and she probably knew it. Even so, seeing the terrible future with clarity, she accepted the futile task of opposing it. The Nazis banned her work from exhibition. Her husband was not aloowed to practice medicine. Threatened with confinement in a camp, she refused to leave Germany or to renounce her anti-nationalist beliefs. Much of her work was destroyed by allied bombing. She died before the war ended.
And see here and here.
posted by CCBC at 12:44 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah The Peasant's War is largely unknown outside of Germany, yet it was Europe's largest popular uprising, other than the French Revolution. Lots of great stories and heroes and villains. There is no good popular history in English, probably because of its reputation as a Marxist or Nazi tool, and it tends to get overshadowed by the Reformation.
posted by stbalbach at 1:51 PM on January 2, 2008

Excellent post, Brandon Blatcher, thanks. And in addition to appreciating Kollwitz, the topic of your post, I thank you for reminding me about the wonderful Spaightwood Galleries - just look how intriguing the gallery is, a local treasure I'd only recently chanced upon online. I made a mental note to visit in person after the holidays - so many thanks for the reminder because I would hate to miss this exhibit on modern masters - I'll look for Kollowitz, too!
posted by madamjujujive at 3:09 PM on January 2, 2008

stbalbach, is see the Marxist connection to the history of the peasant wars, but what is the Nazi angle?
posted by magnusbe at 5:14 PM on January 2, 2008

Powerful images. The grieving parents one is really moving. She seems to have a grasp on expressing tremendous sadness, especially depicting the hands and face.
posted by nickyskye at 8:38 PM on January 2, 2008

thanks for this - i had a while back looked for some more by her online but couldn't find much - she was exceptional
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 PM on January 2, 2008

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