Today we mark the birthday of German artist Käthe Kollwitz, born on this date in 1867. The AMAM owns twelve works by the artist, four of which are now on display in the exhibition Between Fact and Fantasy: The Artistic Imagination in Print.
Kollwitz’s compelling portrayal of a peasant uprising uses gritty realism and heart-rending imagery to depict an historical event that she did not witness. For all their unflinching representations of human suffering, aggression, and death, the scenes are based on her imaginative interpretation of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1522–25 that occurred in Germany during the Protestant Revolution. Intended as the first print in the series, The Plowers shows peasants—too poor to own work horses—harnessed to their plow. Outbreak presents the rousing figure of Black Anna, as Kollwitz named her, at the forefront of an onslaught of peasants wielding their farming tools, the only weapons available to them. One of the last images in the series, Battlefield heartbreakingly underscores the inevitable outcome of war: the search for a missing loved one.
Although these specific events occurred before Kollwitz’s time, she was no stranger to what she called the “insanity” of war. Based in Berlin, she lived through two world wars, losing her son in World War I and enduring the poverty and disenchantment of the Weimar Republic between the two wars. Her personal experiences, as well as her observations of the less fortunate around her, undoubtedly informed the agonizing and gripping images she created.
Between Fact and Fantasy remains on view through July 27, 2014.
Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945)
The Battlefield (Schlachtfeld), from the series The Peasants’ Revolt (Bauernkrieg), 1907
Etching and soft-ground etching
Gift of Pamela and James Elesh (OC 1964), 2012.28