A selection of thirteen rarely seen prints by German Expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) will be on view in the Herstory Gallery of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art from March 15 through September 15, 2013. The first complete Brooklyn Museum presentation of the artist's powerful print cycle War (Krieg), Käthe Kollwitz Prints will focus on works relating to the impact of war that the artist created between World War I, when her son was killed in Flanders, and World War II.
Included will be woodcuts from the Krieg series; The Sacrifice, depicting a mother with outstretched arms offering up her infant; and The Parents, an image of a grief-stricken couple. Also on view will be a 1927 self-portrait of the artist in profile and, from the Death cycle of lithographs, Woman Entrusts Herself to Death and Death Seizes the Children. These images of familial tenderness, the daily struggles of the poor and working classes, and the degree to which they bear the burden of war are the primary focus of Kollwitz's canon.
Born in Königsberg, East Prussia, painter, printmaker, and sculptor Kollwitz is regarded as one of the most important German artists of the twentieth century. As a child she became interested in art, but because she was a woman, she was unable to find a place in an art academy or college. Eventually she moved to Berlin, where she attended an art school for women. She began producing etchings in the late nineteenth century, first working in a naturalistic style and later moving toward expressionism. In 1919 Kollwitz became the first woman to be elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts. A lifelong pacifist and socialist, she was expelled from the Academy when Hitler came to power, and in 1936 her art was classified by the Nazis as degenerate. She was barred from exhibiting and her works were removed from galleries and museums.
Kollwitz's nineteen-year-old son Peter was killed on the battlefield in 1914, after which the artist suffered a prolonged period of depression. To a friend she said, "There is in our lives a wound which will never heal. Nor should it."