Throughout her life, Käthe Kollwitz was an attentive observer who was also interested in everyday scenes, some of which she described in her diary and recorded in drawings. The sketches served her as practice and as a store of ideas for later artistic use. In this way, she acquired a skill that “enables me to express what I want without a model”, as she noted in her diary in 1909.
Kollwitz never gave up sketching completely. Her sophisticated prints and large-format drawings, which were compressed after many variations into a timeless artistic statement, proceed from the lively and spontaneous sketches which she would make again and again. This process can be followed particularly impressively with the mother-child depictions. In contrast to the more formulated compositions with their often worrying motifs, Kollwitz was initially interested in the natural connection between mother and child, often during breastfeeding or in loving togetherness. From the observations of familiar interaction between mother and child, the artist then concentrated the intended artistic message in an often very lengthy work process.
Kollwitz worked both with random observations and with models. She often noted encounters with children in her diaries: “Drawing a mother who presses her face against a very small child” (28/9/1909) or “Was with Mrs Soost this morning. Her little Rose has died. Lying pale as wax with sunken eyes and open mouth in the waggon. Am drawing the child” (18/3/1918). In 1910 she described a situation in her studio with a female model and a child: “She was magnificent with the boy, how she had him in her lap and played with him.”
The drawings and proofs on the subject of “mother and child”, which are presented here and come primarily from a private collection, therefore open up a new perspective on Kollwitz, in particular her drawing skills and her way of working with her less formal depictions of intimate and playful togetherness.
With almost 20 works, some of which have never been shown publicly before, this exhibition presents aspects of Käthe Kollwitz’s work that is both unusual and intriguing.