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Farewell to Fasanenstraße 24

“There are three things important to me in my life: that I have had children, that I have had such a faithful life companion, and my work.”

Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin
Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin © Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin Käthe Kollwitz, Schlafende mit Kind, Holzschnitt, 1929 © Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin, Privatsammlung NRW

Käthe Kollwitz to her son, January 1926

The last months at the Fasanen­strasse 24 location have begun and the museum is saying good­bye with works by Käthe Kollwitz on all three ex­hibition floors. In addition to the chrono­logically presented show on the life and work of Käthe Kollwitz, which shows the four large print cycles of the artist on the first and third floors, a differentiated view of Kollwitz’s art is possible on the second floor.

With study sheets, pre­liminary drawings, and proofs, the museum provides an in­sight into the artist’s work­shop using the example of the “Gedenk­blatt für Karl Liebknecht” (In Memoriam Karl Liebknecht) and shows her intensive involve­ment with the technique of wood­cutting, which was new to her at the time.

The years after the First World War were marked by politi­cal conflicts and up­heavals. The need among the popu­lation was great and hunger was omni­present, especially in working-class families. Käthe Kollwitz began to get more in­volved in actions against hunger, war and poverty in the 1920s. She produced numerous posters and leaf­lets, in­cluding “Deutschlands Kinder hungern!” (Germany’s Children are Starving!) in 1923 as an appeal for donations for the Inter­nationale Arbeiter­hilfe Berlin (Inter­national Workers’ Aid Berlin) and the anti-war poster “Die Überlebenden” (The Survivors), published by the Inter­national Trade Union Confederation Amsterdam.

The artist had to pain­fully work out her clear stance against the war. At the out­break of war in the summer of 1914, she persuaded her hus­band to allow their younger son Peter, who was not yet of age, to become a war volun­teer. Many artists and intellec­tuals of the time joined in this war euphoria. For example, the gallery owner Paul Cassirer published a graphic magazine, “Kriegs­zeit – Künstler­flug­blätter”. Initially appearing weekly, the paper published literary texts and litho­graphs on the events of the war, which completely followed the official pronounce­ments on the war and its course. Renowned artists of the Berlin Secession such as Max Liebermann, August Gaul and Ernst Barlach contributed to the publi­cation. Käthe Kollwitz also contributed a litho­graph and thematized the female view of the events of the war. Her work “Das Bangen” depicts the sorrows of women who had to let sons, husbands and brothers go to war. The print was published in the 10th issue on October 28, 1914, a few days later Käthe and Karl Kollwitz were informed of the death of their son Peter.
In the studio exhibition, the museum shows a small selection of the artistic works for the “war time”, in­cluding Liebermann, Gaul and Barlach, as well as fellow artists Dora Hitz and Hedwig Weiß.

In the graphics of this period, Käthe Kollwitz addressed the precarious economic situation of many women and mothers who tried to keep their heads above water by working from home or were even dependent on urban shelter.

In addition to the often worry­ing motifs, the artist was also inter­ested in the natural con­nection bet­ween mother and child – in loving together­ness, in every­day situations or while breast­feeding. Kollwitz brought the mother-child motif out of the two-dimensional drawing into the plastic, first in smaller groups of figures such as “Mother with Child over Her Shoulder” or “Woman with Child in Her Lap”, and finally in the large plastic group “Mother with Two Children”.

Family plays a major role in Käthe Kollwitz’s work, but portraits of her own family are less common. The artist’s works of her hus­band and siblings in her later years, which the museum presents together in the studio ex­hibition, are all the more im­pressive.

The artist repeatedly por­trayed herself, so that there are a large number of self-portraits in a wide variety of graphic techniques and from all phases of her life. In addition, Käthe Kollwitz also inspired other artists to deal with her physio­gnomy. On the occasion of the fare­well to Fasanenstrasse, the museum is showing portraits of the artist from its own collection, which others worked on of her. Among them is an im­pressive bust of Kollwitz by the sculptor Hans Breker, donated last summer by the artist’s daughter.
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Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin