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
With the King Sculpture Court ceiling currently undergoing conservation, all works normally on view have been moved to storage. Sadly, this includes our Japanese Coiling Dragon, easily one of the most popular works on view. So, we thought it would make a fitting subject for our first-ever gif! What do you think?
Japanese dragons, like other dragons, are fearsome and powerful creatures. However, they are also considered to be just and benevolent, often bringing wealth and good fortune to those who see them. Dragons also serve as water deities in Japan and are associated with rainfall and bodies of water. Fittingly, the coiling dragon here served as a fountain out in the museum’s courtyard for a number of years. For its original function, an incense basin rested on a stylized plume of water spouting from the dragon’s mouth.
Coiling Dragon, Meiji period, late 19th century
Gift of Charles F. Olney, 1904.723
Great weather (well, warm weather)… the Oberlin Chalk Walk… and gallery re-installations. Summer has arrived officially! Our two thematic exhibitions on Realism closed on Sunday, and the galleries are being prepped for next year’s shows. Three temporary exhibitions are still on view through much of July: Between Fact and Fantasy, The Legacy of Socialist Realism, and Prints and Printmaking.
Get a sneak peek of the 2014-15 exhibition calendar here - it promises to be an exciting and thought-provoking year!
If you have ever admired Japanese woodblock prints for their amazing imagery, colors and compositions, you will be even more impressed when you learn about how they were made. Oberlin College Library’s Special Collections department has just made available images of a fascinating illustrated book on the process of Japanese woodblock printmaking.
The book, titled Nishikie suritate junjo, was part of the renowned Mary A. Ainsworth collection of Japanese prints and artist’s books. Ainsworth was an Oberlin graduate (OC 1889) who visited Japan in 1906 and spent the next twenty-five years building one of the best collections of Japanese prints of her day, which she bequeathed to Oberlin College in 1950. During Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868) polychrome woodblock prints were among the most famous products of the “Floating World” (Ukiyo), or world of entertainment. Creating these multicolor images required a different woodblock for each color, and the book lays out these complex stages of printing one by one, using as an example a famous print from Andō Hiroshige’s series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaidō.
For more images from the book, click here.
To see three different impressions of this same print from the AMAM collection, search for “Rain at Shono” in the “Quick Search” box here.
Click here for images of the entire The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaidō series.
Now on View: John Sloan’s etchings provide glimpses into the private and public lives of New York’s denizens, and are mostly based on the artist’s firsthand observations of city life. This etching manifests Sloan’s low opinion of artists who painted after the work of other artists rather than from life. Standing in a painting gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a painter closely scrutinizes the landscape image hanging before her, which she replicates on a canvas of her own. Sloan included portraits of himself and his wife at the bottom left of the image, where they look towards the painter with sidelong glances.
This work is on display in the exhibition Regarding Realism through June 22, 2014.
John Sloan (American, 1871–1951)
Copyist at the Metropolitan Museum, 1908
Oberlin Friends of Art Fund, 1994.49