Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Kollwitz, Käthe from Philip's Encyclopedia

German graphic artist and sculptor. Kollwitz's works depict suffering, especially of women and children. Her economical style conveyed tragedy in the tradition of German expressionism. Her pieces include the series of etchings, The Weavers' Revolt (1897-98) and Peasants' War (1902-28). She also produced lithographs and woodcuts such as War (1922-23) and Death (1934-35).


Summary Article: Kollwitz, Käthe from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German graphic artist and sculptor. One of the leading expressionists, she is noted for her harrowing and often disturbing drawings, etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts on the themes of social injustice, poverty, and human suffering, as in the woodcut cycle Never Again War! (1924). Her woodcut The Mothers (1923) demonstrates her ability to communicate sorrow and political protest through art. She is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

Kollwitz was born in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, in Russia). Her father, Karl Schmidt, was an ardent radical, and her husband, Dr Karl Kollwitz, worked among the poor of Berlin, both men influencing her views and her subject matter. Among her principal works are March of the Weavers (1897; University of Michigan Museum of Art), the Peasants' War series (1902–08), the poster Bread, Children Starving (1924), and the lithographs Death (1934–35), and Seeds for Sowing Must Not Be Milled (1942). Her sculptures include a war memorial at Dixmude (1932), made in part to commemorate her son, who was killed in World War I.

Kollwitz was encouraged to become an artist from an early age, and at 17 she moved to Berlin to study at the School for Women Artists. Working as an expressionist, Kollwitz found the woodcut method of printing particularly ideal. The bold black lines of her woodcut prints communicated her passionate dedication to social and political causes and her empathy with the poor.

Kollwitz was greatly influenced by the artists Max Klinger and Vincent van Gogh. Her contemporaries were the expressionists Edvard Munch, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, and Franz Marc. An activist in every respect, Kollwitz was the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy, although during the Nazi regime her beliefs and art led to her expulsion from the institution. During this period she was also forbidden to exhibit, and her work was classified as Degenerate Art. Her house in Berlin was hit in the bombing of 1943, destroying much of her art, but many of her works found their way into US collections.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Kollwitz, Käthe (1867 - 1945)
The Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women

Kollwitz's powerful graphic works handle themes of death, social oppression, and war. She has been seen as the last great German...

Full text Article Kollwitz, Käthe (née Schmidt) (1867 - 1945)
The Bloomsbury Guide to Art

She was born in Königsberg, the daughter of a wealthy mason. She attended Berlin School of Art (1884) and Munich (1887),...

Full text Article Kollwitz Käthe (1867 - 1945)
A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, Andromeda

Born Käthe Schmidt, the German artist Käthe Kollwitz came from a nonconformist background and lived for most of her life...

See more from Credo