(German, July 8, 1867–April 22, 1945) was a painter and sculptor whose work was known for its depiction of the human condition, in often graphic detail. Kollwitz was born into a wealthy family in East Prussia, and began drawing lessons at the age of 14. She attended the Berlin School of Art in 1884, and later continued her studies in Munich, Germany. She studied in Munich with the painter Karl Stauffer-Bern
Kollwitz’s earliest works are of working society, including sailors and peasants who she saw working for her father. Heavily influenced by painter Max Klinger
(German, 1857–1920), her work often features dark and oppressive colors and subject matter. After marrying a doctor and settling in one of the poorest sections of Berlin, Kollwitz used her art to rail against what she saw as horrible social conditions for Germany's poor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of Kollwitz's work is imagery of war, death, and social injustice. Throughout her life, most of her work would be connected to her own experience with pain and loss. She worked with a variety of mediums, but is perhaps best known for her drawings, woodcuts, etchings, and lithography. Initially her work was grounded in Naturalism, although she later moved on to Expressionism.
One of her well-known works is Woman with Dead Child
(1903). In this etching, Kollwitz created large expanses of texture and tone using small dots in lines that were barely discernible. Many art enthusiasts believe that Kollwitz used a transfer technique to achieve this pattern. Another of her most famous works is Self Portrait
, a 1924 ink wash on green paper. Her major collection is one entitled Peasant War
, a group of Expressionistic works done from 1902 through 1908 that chronicle the uprising of Germany's poor. In 1920, Kollwitz was the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of the Arts, and she took a place as a professor at Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Germany. She was forced to resign this position under Hitler's Nazi Regime in 1933. Because she did not support Hitler, her work was removed from museums. Her home was bombed in 1943. She remained in Berlin in spite of the dangers.
Kollwitz's works are available for purchase at hundreds of galleries around the world. Her work is on permanent display at several museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL, the Kathe Kollwitz Museum in Berlin, Germany, and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, in New York, NY. The artist died on April 22, 1945.