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Käthe Kollwitz

Venue: Gropius Bau

Was also part of: exp. 1

Käthe Kollwitz

Born 1867 in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, RU) – died 1945 in Moritzburg, DE

An iconic German modernist artist who made drawings, prints, and sculptures, Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) distinguished herself in a male-dominated art world by articulating the particular experience of women in the class struggle and during wartime. Her best-known cycles, Ein Weberaufstand [A Weavers’ Revolt, 1893–97] and Bauernkrieg [Peasants’ War, 1902–08], depict popular uprisings that took place during the artist’s lifetime—an acknowledgement of the continued social injustice she observed all around her and a plea for its rectification. Female protagonists figure prominently in both cycles—for example, the Schwarze Hofmännin (Black Anna), a peasant woman credited in historical accounts for inciting revolt in her village of Heilbronn during the German Peasants’ War (1525). Likewise, Die Carmagnole [The Carmagnole, 1901], based on a passage from the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities, depicts the revolutionary fervor of a mostly female crowd, while Die Mütter [The Mothers, 1922/23], from the Krieg [War 1918–22/23] series, shows a group of women huddled around their children, their bodies locked in solidarity, forming a sculptural mass, a protective shield.

Kollwitz’s inclusion in this edition of the Berlin Biennale derives from the curatorial team’s research into the Clube dos Artistas Modernos (CAM, Club of Modern Artists), the São Paulo exhibition space founded in 1933 by Flávio de Carvalho. Expressing solidarity with Kollwitz after she was expelled from the Akademie der Künste in 1933 for publicly resisting the Nazis’ rise to power, the CAM organized a retrospective that same year featuring eighty-four prints. In an essay accompanying the exhibition, the seminal Brazilian critic Mário Pedrosa celebrated Kollwitz’s work for engaging with social and political issues rather than merely aesthetic ones. Today, artistic responses such as Kollwitz’s to social injustice and the threat of fascism are as urgent as ever, given the current resurgence of right-wing nationalism across the globe.

Michèle Faguet

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