Happy birthday dear ladies (Kathe Kollwitz and Artemisia Gentileschi) Revisited

Artemisia Gentileschi self portrait

Two very different women artists share a  birthday today.  Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656) and German painter, printmaker and sculptor Kathe Kollwitz (1867 -1945).  I have already written about Gentileschi in my post ‘Behind the Paint – Susannah and the Elders by Artemisia Gentileschi’  There is a good website which is dedicated to this artist  here

Kollowitz had great empathy towards the less fortunate of society and this strongly underlines her work.

Kathe Kollwitz ‘Weavers Uprising’

Although her work started of Naturalistically,  Expressionist qualities found their way into her later work.  Kathe married doctor Karl Kollwitz who worked in the poorer areas of Berlin.  She taught art at a school for women artists and began exhibiting her work in Dresden.  A Weavers uprising (1893 -97) proved very popular and this was followed up by Peasants’ War’ (1902 – 1908).

Hunger by Kathe Kollwitz

Kollwitz was a Socialist and  contributed a lot of drawings which depict the poverty of the working class of Germany in this period.  She also contributed work to Simplicissimus a journal.  When her soldier son Peter was killed in 1914, the artist began a series of works that showed the effect war has upon women.

kollwitz widows and orphans

‘Killed in Action’,  Widows and Orphans and The Survivors were all worked between 1919 and 1923.  Kollwitz also illustrated political posters for organisations, for example IAH (International Workers Aid).

Sadly history repeated itself and Kollwitz’s  grandson (also called Peter) was killed in the second World War.  The artist herself died in 1945.  A good biography about Kollwitz can be found here

Kollwitz woman with dead child 1903 etching

Woman with dead child etching from hereWidows and Orphans image from here.  Several good images from hereWeavers uprising image from here  Susanna and the elders Gentileschi image from here





8 thoughts on “Happy birthday dear ladies (Kathe Kollwitz and Artemisia Gentileschi) Revisited

  1. I’ve always thought Kollwitz’s work was deeply felt and that her genius was that she could convey this in her prints. How she was able to do this without the use of color (which I think as being an emotional vehicle) is amazing to me. Artemisia also comes from a place of pain. A good artist friend of mine is convinced that much of the great art of the world was created from some wound or remembered pain. What do you think?

    1. Excellent point Al! emotion conveyed through monochrome! I wonder if this contributes to the starkness of the grief? I don’t know if all great work comes from a place of pain though, though a lot does I supppose. But perhaps this goes back to the romantic idea of the ‘sufferrng’ artist starving in a garret. It is from this idea that some artists have a problem in actually putting a fair value (monetary) on their work. Hirst of course bucks the trend and is the reversal. More power to his elbow, I suppose:) 🙂

  2. I have always liked Kathe Kollwitz’s work. I was introduced to her by my drawing teacher in the 80’s and thought her work magnificent. She takes a drawing and turns it into a self-expression few can match. I had not seen “Weavers Uprising”. Thank-you for talking about her, Lynda.

  3. She makes each expressive mark count doesn’t she! I found etching quite difficult in printmaking and time consuming. There is so much detail and passion in her marks – and truth. She speaks straight from the heart and with empathy. Glad you liked this post Leslie!

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