Categories: THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Lithographs, Etchings and Woodcuts by German artist Käthe Kollwitz

The Mothers, Käthe Kollwitz, 1921–1922. The Getty Research Institute, 2016.PR.34

Käthe Kollwitz: Prints, Process, Politics
On view through March 29, 2020

The Getty Research Institute
The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Written by Cathy Breslaw

December 3, 2019

Käthe Kollwitz’s 5 decades of art-making took place in her homeland, Germany during turbulent societal change and the devastation of two world wars. Her works document the poverty, injustice and loss she and her fellow Germans experienced during these years – including the loss of one of her sons. Though she began as a painter, Kollwitz found that etchings, woodcuts and lithographs better portrayed her ideas, thoughts and emotions to a more easily accessible and broader audience. 

The works in this exhibition are derived from the Dr. Richard Sims Collection donated to the Getty Research Center. These prints include ‘preparatory sheets’ which are preliminary drawings that reveal Kollwitz’s artistic process and experimentation with materials, composition and manipulation of subject matter. It gives insight into the artist’s creative process both from her thoughts and the actual drawings. Overall, Kollwitz’s works are evocative and express intense emotion whether it is through the pose or poses of the subjects, facial expressions or sometimes oversized and expressive hands.

Need, Käthe Kollwitz, 1893–1897. The Getty Research Institute, 2016.PR.34

In Peasants’ War (1908), one of her print cycles produced over six years (resulting in seven prints), Kollwitz reveals the effects of social injustice and revolution in a tragic period of German history. These drawings, trials in lithography and etching and working proofs convey the artist’s conscientious planning and creation of the prints.

Kollwitz’s focus on both technique and subject simultaneously are demonstrated in her work In Memorium Karl Liebknecht (1920). Liebknecht, the leader of the German Communist Party was arrested and killed and was joined by 100,000 mourners at the grave site. Having witnessed the burial, Kollwitz was inspired – and moving through creating an etching, a lithograph and then finally to a woodcut, which she believed best expressed her intent.

Kollwitz remains as one of Europe’s most important artists and this exhibition is an opportunity for U.S. audiences to  view these works rarely seen in our country. This exhibition was curated by Louis Marchesano. The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Christina Aube, Exhibitions Coordinator at the Getty Research Institute, and Naoko Takahatake, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Getty Research Institute.

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