Posts Tagged 'Käthe Kollwitz'

The Two Käthes

Join us for Late Night this Friday when we will host artist Käthe Kollwitz of the feminist activist art collective the Guerrilla Girls as part of a celebration of women artists featured in Visions of America. For more than thirty years, women artists from across the country have donned gorilla masks and joined the ranks of the Guerrilla Girls to produce public art campaigns that raise awareness about gender and ethnic discrimination in the art world and beyond. Having decided early on that the members of the Guerrilla Girls would remain anonymous, they took this opportunity to shine some limelight on great women artists of the past by assuming the names of pioneers like Käthe Kollwitz, Frida Kahlo, and Zubeida Agha.

Guerrilla Girls at the Abrons Art Center, 2015

In an interview for the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Oral History Program, Käthe explained the origin of their pseudonyms.

“Eventually we realized that we needed individual names within the Guerrilla Girls.  When we went places in a group or in pairs, we needed to be individuals in some way.  So this idea came up to have dead women artists as pseudonyms, and it was a useful idea because art historians were re-finding and representing the work of a lot of women artists from history.  Most of the pseudonyms that people took were artists they’d never heard of before they started and only discovered when they read up on women artists, looking for a name.”

Käthe’s own namesake, Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945), was a German printmaker and sculptor who also addressed social injustice in her work. She also happens to be well represented in the DMA’s collection

Kollwitz’s work is at times touching and heart-wrenching with intimate portraits of mothers with their children as well as genre scenes depicting the plight of the urban poor. Her subjects are often gaunt figures whose shadowy eyes and pained poses speak volumes about the dire circumstances under which they lived. Having endured multiple personal tragedies and both world wars, she was an artist who did not shy away from showing the realities of war, poverty, and loss.

Käthe Kollwitz, Revolt (Sturm), 1897, Etching, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg, 2000.192.FA

Remarking on how she arrived at the pseudonym Käthe Kollwitz, the artist said, “It’s very personal for everybody.  Käthe Kollwitz is not my all-time favorite artist, but she’s a great role model.  She was an activist as well as an artist.  She didn’t believe in the expensive, fancy art system.  She did a lot of cheap prints that she gave and sold very cheaply.  She did a lot of work about working people, about women and children, even work about sex.  She was a fierce woman artist.”

Over 70 years after Kollwitz’s death the Guerrilla Girls are continuing the practice of using art to raise awareness. Reflecting on their own 30 year legacy, Käthe will speak about favorite projects and how the group has approached activism in their work. For more information about this and other Late Night programs, visit DMA.org.

Jessie Frazier is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

Alles Gute Zum Geburtstag Käthe Kollwitz

Popular throughout Europe and the United States during her career, German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) captured images of life and the tragedy of war during the first half of the 20th century. Commemorate Kollwitz’s July 8 birthday with a visit to the free focus exhibition Käthe Kollwitz: A Social Activist in the Era of World War I in the Museum’s European Art Gallery on Level 2.

 

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Kimberly Daniell is Manager of Communications and Public Affairs at the DMA.

World War I Through the Eyes of Käthe Kollwitz: One Hundred Years Later

A new installation in the European Works on Paper Gallery contemplates the life and work of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945). For Germans born in the latter half of the 19th century, life was in a constant state of chaos. Immigration to America was at an all-time high, and World War I would soon be on their doorstep only to be followed by the destruction of World War II. For Kollwitz, the impact of these grave events became the inspiration for her artwork.

Käthe Kollwitz, Self Portrait, 1927. Lithograph, 12 5/8 x 11 ¾ in. (32.068 x 29.845 cm.), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, 1953.37

Käthe Kollwitz, Self-Portrait, 1927. lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg

As a graphic artist and sculptor, Kollwitz was widely popular in Europe and America throughout her long life. Kollwitz had always been drawn to representing the working classes. But it was with a cycle of six prints documenting the Weaver’s Revolt of 1844 that she achieved instant fame. The DMA owns the last two prints in the series, Revolt and End.

Käthe Kollwitz, Revolt (Sturm), 1897. ink and etching on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg

Käthe Kollwitz, Revolt, 1897. ink and etching on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg

Käthe Kollwitz, End (Ende), 1897. aquatint and etching on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg

Käthe Kollwitz, End, 1897, aquatint and etching on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg

Together these works document the uprising of peasant workers and the resulting death and destruction. This series was so popular that Kollwitz was awarded a gold medal at the Great Berlin Exhibition of 1898, but the Prussian emperor Wilhelm II refused to award it to her, fearing her striking images would spark rebellions among the working classes. Nevertheless, it was this subject matter that would carry throughout her life’s work. She became dedicated to advocating for the lower classes and the downtrodden in society.

After the war, Kollwitz created many lithographs of women and children, such as Bread! and Hungry Children. These images were widely popular and circulated throughout the country. Kollwitz intended to draw attention to the starving working class and the impact of World War I on the nation.

Käthe Kollwitz, Bread! (Brot!), 1924. lithograph, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg

Käthe Kollwitz, Bread!, 1924. lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg

Käthe Kollwitz, Hungry Children (Deutschlands Kinder Hungern!), 1924. lithograph and ink, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg

Käthe Kollwitz, Hungry Children, 1924. lithograph and ink, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg

These two works were reprinted nearly a decade later. During World War II, Bread! was published in the National Socialist women’s magazine, Warte, as pro-Nazi propaganda, with the forged signature of St. Frank. Kollwitz was outraged, as she was a staunch opponent of Nazism and another world war. The United States appropriated Hungry Children as a propaganda poster to encourage rationing for the war effort.

After Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945), Brot!, reprinted by the Nazi Party in NS Frauen Warte, the National Socialist Women’s Paper, photo credit Elizabeth Prelinger, Käthe Kollwitz (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1992), pg. 122. After Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945), Ask the Women and Children Whom Hitler is Starving Whether Rationing is Too Great a “Sacrifice,” 1942-1945, Photomechanical print, 55 ¾ x 39 13/16 in. (141.6 x 101.2 cm.), National Archives at College Park, MD, ARC Identifier, 513836

After Käthe Kollwitz, Bread!, reprinted by the Nazi Party in NS Frauen Warte, the National Socialist Women’s Paper, photo credit Elizabeth Prelinger, Käthe Kollwitz (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1992), pg. 122. After Käthe Kollwitz , Ask the Women and Children Whom Hitler Is Starving Whether Rationing Is Too Great a “Sacrifice,” 1942-45, Photomechanical print, National Archives at College Park, MD, ARC Identifier, 513836

The works are currently on view in the Museum’s European Works on Paper Gallery on Level 2 and are included in the DMA’s free general admission.

Update September 5, 2014:
Listen to an interview with Michael Hartman discussing the exhibition on Tyler Green’s The Modern Art Notes Podcast here.

Michael Hartman is the McDermott Intern for European Art at the DMA.


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