Käthe Kollwitz

Couples, connected in love and pain

October 21, 2018 – January 13, 2019

Introduction: Katharina Koselleck M.A.,
Käthe Kollwitz Museum, Cologne

In cooperation with the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Cologne, which houses the world's largest collection of the artist's works, the Museum Lothar Fischer is showing a representative cross-section of Käthe Kollwitz's work.  A year after the artist´s 150th birthday, more than 40 graphic and sculptural works of the internationally renowned artist, loans from Cologne, are on display in Neumarkt. The very motif of couples being connected in love or in pain, in poverty, grief, or death, runs through her entire oeuvre like a red thread.

Käthe Kollwitz was born as Käthe Schmidt in Königsberg in 1867.  Supported by her father at an early age, she was one of the first women to study at the Artists' School in Berlin and at the Ladies' Academy in Munich. In 1891 she married Dr. Karl Kollwitz, a physician, and moved with him to Berlin, where her sons Hans (1892) and Peter (1896) were born. The latter lost his life as a war volunteer at the age of 18. Käthe Kollwitz, who also worked as a sculptor from 1909 onwards, repeatedly recorded this painful loss in her art. In 1919, she was the first woman to become a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, and at the same time she was appointed professor. But in the course of Hitler's takeover she was, like Heinrich Mann, forced by the NS government to resign from the academy. When Karl Kollwitz died in 1940, she created the small sculpture Farewell in memory of her husband. In 1943, after the Allied air raids, she left Berlin. Her apartment with her studio on Prenzlauer Berg as well as numerous works were destroyed by the bombs. On the invitation of Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony, she went to Moritzburg, where she died on April 22, 1945, only a few days before the end of the war.

As an artist she always took a critical position.  In her graphic series such as Der Weberaufstand (1893-97), Bauernkrieg (1902-08), and Proletariat (1924/25), for example, she was eager to depict what war, poverty, suffering, unemployment, and illness make of people. With her often shockingly realistic drawings and sculptures, which in many cases refer to her personal circumstances and experiences, she has documented a piece of shattering contemporary history. As an astute and sensitive observer she was also able - and this is rather unknown to a broader public - to capture interpersonal privacy and deep connections, so that belonging, motherhood happiness or intimate togetherness become visible. Charcoal drawings such as Pair of Lovers Nestling Together or Pair of Lovers Embracing Each Other are convincing examples in this respect. Moreover, like the bronze Liebespaar and many other works of the artist, they show self-portrait-like features. Käthe Kollwitz's life and work - maternity and artistry - are closely interwoven, which becomes clear again and again in the exhibition "Couples, Connected in Love and in Pain".