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.