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Kathe Kollwitz at RISD

Post #885 • October 11, 2006, 11:06 AM • 3 Comments

Providence — The RISD Museum recently received a gift of 63 prints and three drawings by Käthe Kollwitz, about a fourth of her total printed output, which all at once turned the museum into a major center for the study of her work. A Process of Protest: Prints and Drawings of Käthe Kollwitz does a fine job filling out a handsome show with useful biographical details. A whole exhibition of Kollwitz is depressing enough to ruin your day. There's no way around that, but knowing that, say, a huddle of angry, emaciated figures relates to a particular 19th Century play about Silesian weavers offsets unremitting misery with a modicum of hope that humanity can progress. (Compare to Munch, in which the angst springs forth permanently out of the vague abyss from where such maladies come.) The exhibition also explores her relation to a preceeding generation of German graphic artists, including Ernst Barlach, whose woodcuts inspired a series in the show represented by a print and a powerful preparatory drawing. The self-portraits stand out, portraying the artist as a resolute will in an atmosphere of dire trouble. I've long regarded Kollwitz as one of the supreme draughtsmen of the 20th Century, and this exhibition reinforces that regard.

Käthe Kollwitz: The Volunteers (sheet 2 of the series War), 1921-22, woodcut (Kn. 173, state IV-c), image courtesy RISD Museum

Käthe Kollwitz: Self-Portrait, hand at forehead, ca. 1910, published 1918, etching, drypoint (Kn. 109, state IIe), image courtesy RISD Museum

Käthe Kollwitz: Help Russia!, 1921, transfer lithograph (Kn. 170, state III, without text), edition for the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe (International Worker's Aid) organization, image courtesy RISD Museum

Comment

1.

jordan

October 11, 2006, 6:55 PM

Franklin, do you have sizes for these ?
Damn I miss making etchings and lithographs. There is something satisfying about the way that oil based line work adheres to the paper and becomes 'one' with it; unlike standard drawing in which the pigment generally sits on top of the paper. This a wet and dry issue.

2.

Kate

October 11, 2006, 7:17 PM

I can remember, many years ago, going to the Herbert F. Johnson museum one Fall afternoon, and standing in a dark, narrow hallway where her image of a mother cradling her dead child arrested me in my tracks, then sucked all the air out of my chest. I don't think I moved for 15 minutes.

On a lighter note, don't you love FALL in Boston, Franklin?! Are you delirious?

3.

Brenda Harness

October 15, 2006, 1:34 PM

It's remarkable, the power of Kathe Kollwitz to draw the viewer into a world so dismal, so frightening that no one would willingly want to share her life experience except through her imagery. I haven't thought about her work for years, yet upon merely seeing her name here, I was drawn once more to experience her pain again.

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