October 20, 2016
January 09, 2017
Honolulu Museum of Art
Kӓthe Kollwitz, a key figure in the German Expressionist movement, was trained as a painter, but like many of her early 20th-century German contemporaries, adopted printmaking as her primary mode of expression. Across a variety of printing techniques, Kollwitz remained consistent in her approach to social criticism, where her own personal tragedies spanning three wars (the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, and World War II), coupled with her deep empathy for the impoverished population that suffered greatly during the same period, informed the artwork she produced over the course of her lifetime.
Born in 1867 in Russia, Kollwitz based her artwork on themes taken from everyday life in war-torn Europe. A devoted pacifist, she lost her son in World War I and her grandson in World War II. She combined the immediacy and directness of printmaking with gripping imagery to translate her emotions, into compelling compositions that bring focus to the suffering experienced by mothers and the working class during political upheaval.
Her wrenching depictions earned her success as an artist, but they also stirred controversy. Kollwitz was the first female professor appointed to the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1919, a position from which she was forced to resign in 1933 under the Nazi regime. Undeterred, Kollwitz continued to interrogate themes of spirituality, motherhood, and social injustice through her artwork until her death in 1945.