In the early days of the First World War her young son Peter was killed. She blamed herself because she had encouraged him to enlist and this tragic event affected her for the rest of her life. Her drawings and woodcut prints, deeply personal but also universal, highlight the situation of the poor and downtrodden, empathising with their suffering and despair.
Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was a German artist, born in eastern Prussia, now Kaliningrad. There is an exhibition of her work in the National Gallery of Ireland at the moment. If you’re in town, do not miss this extremely moving show.
You can just see the tenderness and sensitivity of her drawings in the image above, I think the idea of motherhood was very important to her. Here we see the Virgin Mary visiting her cousin Elisabeth, both of them expecting. They can only imagine the destiny that awaits both their sons. As we head towards Christmas, I thought that it was a timely piece to show – even if it’s far removed from your average Christmas card image.
During those war years she was introspective and full of self-doubt but her art served as an outlet for her anxieties, her frustration and her grief. And she believed that art could change the world – to quote from the catalogue – “Her aim was to help create a more just society and to break the cycle of destruction shaking the world”.
Visit – Käthe Kollwitz: Life, Death and War at the National Gallery (until December 10th). There are about 40 of her prints and drawings – including two works from the gallery’s own collection. The rest are from the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany.
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