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 -1922). 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.
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).
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.
‘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