Figure Drawing at the Mount

This blog is set up for art students in Kurt Nicaise's Figure Drawing class at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Here they will post thier Artist Investigation Assignments and comment on their classmates' posts.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kathe Kollwitz-Michelle Thoman

Death and the Woman

Death of the child, 1910, lithograph

The Town Shelter, 1923

Lithograph, Germany's Children Are Starving, 1924

Self-Portrait, Woodcut proof, 1923,

Die Eltern (The Parents)

Hunger, 1925, Woodcut

Abschied und Tod (Departure and Death), 1923, crayon lithograph

Die Witwe I (The Widow I), 1922-3.


Kathe Kollwitz was born in Königsberg, East Prussia on July 8 1867. Her father, Karl Schmidt, was a radical Social democrat and her mother, Katherina Schmidt, was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor who was expelled from the official State Church and founded an independent congregation. Kollwitz’s education was greatly influenced by her father, who recognized her talent and she began painting and drawing lessons at the age of twelve. When she was sixteen she began drawing working people that would come to her father’s office. She continued her education in Berlin. Here she studied with Karl Stauffer-Bern, a friend of Max Klinger. The etchings of Klinger, their technique and social concerns, were large inspiration to Kollwitz. Kathe Kollwitz married Karl Kollwitz doctor to the proletariate, which proved to be basis of Kollwitz’s subject matter.

· Kathe Kollwitz had terrible anxiety as a child do to her younger brother’s death.
· She was the daughter of a very well to do mason, yet spoke on behalf of the
working poor.
· Kathe Kollwitz became the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy but
because of her beliefs, and her art, she was expelled from the academy in 1933.
· She lost both her son and grandson to World War I and II.
· In 1920 Kollwitz joined Albert Einstein, George Grosz, Henri Barbusse, and
Upton Sinclair.

Theme and Style

Kathe Kollwitz’s artwork’s theme is that of a humanitarian. Focusing on the oppressed and downtrodden her subject matter became the poor. The people her husband treated as well as the shifting political movements of the time influenced this theme to her artwork. Kollwitz did many woodcuts and etchings. Her style captures both and expressionistic distortion.


Kathe Kollwitz-Poverty
etching and dry point

This drawing of Kollwitz’s is a perfect example of the message that was so dear to her heart. This like many other works of Kollwitz shows the life and hardship of the poor. The grim expression on the face’s of the figures is shown through smaller sensitive, tighter marks. Leaving their faces dark and in shadow. The small child is left with light around it, possibly connecting with the theme of light and heaven, indicating he has passed on. Also the position of the figure over the child is very striking and shows the pain in which the mother is feeling.

Personal response.

Kathe Kollwitz’s artwork spoke to me on many levels. The style of her mark making in is very interesting to me. The bold lines mixed with very sensitive marks, seen in many of the faces her etchings are very inspiring. Not only is her style and use of media inspiring but so is the way she lived her life. Kollwitz’s expressing her political views and statements at a time when the world was most in need of “radical” thinkers shows her unwavering bravery and dedication to having her statement seen and heard.
Kollwitz’s art is varies greatly from many other political artists. She does not make the subject of her art what she opposes. She instead shows how what she opposes truly affects others. To me this is a more effective way of showing how important it is to spark a change. It is my feeling that Kathe Kollwitz’s collection of work is home to some of the greatest protest work. She shows her theme in a very elegant way; sending a message and creating very beautiful, powerful and moving art. I also find inspiration for my own art work by the vast field of media in which she worked, and produced beautiful art. There are many pieces, which show great emotion yet contains wonderful technical merit. This is done in many cases through her mark making which has such attention to detail but is not bridled by being too methodical and unemotional. When I look at many of Kollwitz’s pieces I can connect them with events going on in the present. I feel it is important to be aware of goings on in our present world and make them a part of our art, which can be found in all of Kollwitz’s work whether it is from subjects very close to her life, or from the current world situations.


Blogger Angie Espelage said...

Ooh, even though someone else did Kathe Kollwitz I'm glad you have different pictures. She's such a great artist and can show human emotion so well. She is a great grahpic artist with such a sad yet interesting life!

12:28 AM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I love the self-portrait wood cut and, like Angie, am glad you used different pictures! : ) The use of lines, and the variety of lines, in that piece, are beautiful, yet very powerful and confident and striking. I enjoy how she "modeled" the piece through her use of lines that show the direction of features of her face and add volume. One glance and it's unforgettable. I also enjoy the fact that she showed that which she opposed and its effects on others and, basically, why it wasn't "good" in a way that still made her opinion open to others and to their interpretation of a situation.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of her work is almost cartoonish, but still it shows so much emotion. A strange and interesting style.


10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathe Kollwitz has a very pleasing style.
His motto must be less is more.
It seems as if he uses as few strokes as possible.
His approach seems almost cartoon like
But that style is very hard to mimic if you’re prone to
Making mistakes.
Overall the mood of all his work is depressing.

8:21 PM  

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