Kollwitz, Käthe (1867–1945) By Price, Dorothy
Käthe Kollwitz (née Schmidt) was born in Königsberg, East Prussia in 1867, the fifth child of Karl and Katharina Schmidt. In 1884 she entered the drawing and painting school of the Association of Women Artists in Berlin and then the Women’s School of Art in Munich. In Berlin she trained under Karl Stauffer-Bern who introduced her to the work of Max Klinger. Klinger’s 1891 treatise, Malerei und Zeichnung, was crucial to Kollwitz’s early decision to abandon painting in favor of the graphic arts. Kollwitz married social democrat doctor Karl Kollwitz in 1891 and moved with him to his surgery in Berlin’s east-end tenement district, the inhabitants of which became a major source for Kollwitz’s art. The couple bore two sons, Peter and Hans. In 1914 Peter died in action at the Front, further politicizing Kollwitz’s practice against suffering humanity during the Weimar era. Stylistically, Kollwitz remained indebted to naturalism with preferred subject matter of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, especially mothers and children, rendered with an expressionist sensitivity and symbolic resonance. With the rise of Hitler in 1933 Kollwitz was dismissed from her professorship at the Prussian Academy of Arts, labelled a ‘‘degenerate artist,’’ and her studio closed. She died in 1945, survived by her youngest son Hans.