Exhibition of Rare Wartime Kathe Kollwitz Prints Coming to the Brooklyn Museum

Thirteen rarely exhibited works by the German expressionist printmaster Käthe Kollwitz, including her entire harrowing and haunting “Krieg” (“War”) cycle created between the two World Wars, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum this spring and summer.

Though Kollwitz (1867-1945) specialized in drawings and etchings earlier in her career, she began working with woodcut prints. Her work in this medium account for some of her best known series and pieces, including the majority of the Brooklyn Museum’s holdings of Kollwitz’s oeuvre.

The exhibition, “Käthe Kollwitz: Prints from the ‘War’ and ‘Death’ Portfolios” (March 15-September 15), will be installed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, whose curator, Catherine Morris, is curating the exhibition. It will also feature two of Kollwitz’s lithographs from the “Death” series of the 1930s, which chronicled the abject poverty and starvation of the urban working classes.

The famous “War” cycle was informed not only by Kollwitz’s experience of WWI, but also the loss of her younger son Peter Kollwitz, who was killed on the battlefield in Flanders near the end of the war. His death triggered a long depression for Kollwitz, and helped crystallize the pacifist politics that characterized her work over the next three decades.

In addition to the anti-war and anti-poverty messages that recur in her work, her tendency to focus on the hardships suffered by families and female figures, especially mothers, have led many art historians to claim Kollwitz as a proto-feminist artist, making this exhibition’s presentation at the Sackler Center all the more fitting.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Detail from Käthe Kollwitz, “The Widow I (Die Witwe I),” 1922-23. Brooklyn Museum. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)