Käthe Kollwitz (née Schmidt, 1867–1945) was one of the leading artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, notable for the emotional power of her drawing, printmaking and then sculpture.
This exhibition focuses on works from the British Museum’s remarkable print collection, celebrating the enduring impact of Kollwitz’s powerful and affecting images.
Kollwitz was born in Königsberg in East Prussia, which formed part of Germany from 1871-1945. After studying in Berlin and Munich she moved permanently to Berlin in 1891 when she married Karl Kollwitz, a doctor for the tailors’ medical insurance union. Kollwitz lived an intensely examined life, expressed in her numerous self-portraits (featured in the exhibition), diaries and correspondence; at the core of this existence was her work as an artist: ‘It alone is always stimulating, rejuvenating, exciting and satisfying.’ (New Year’s Day, 1912).
Her mastery of graphic art quickly established her reputation in Germany, then further afield as her influence spread to Russia and China after the First World War.
The 36 works from the British Museum collection that feature in the exhibition were collected by Campbell Dodgson, Assistant Keeper then Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings (1893-1932). He bought Käthe Kollwitz ‘s prints in Germany before the First World War, influenced by his colleague Max Lehrs of the Dresden and Berlin Print Rooms, the artist’s first and greatest champion. Since the bulk of material came to the British Museum as part of Campbell Dodgson’s bequest in 1948 they have been available through the Student’s Room of the Museum, but rarely seen together in one exhibition.
The exhibition looks at her work through the exploration of three themes: self-portraits, social and political protest and the role of an empathetic and suffering mother. Käthe Kollwitz explored the last theme throughout her career, but all the more so following the loss of her younger son Peter in October 1914, at the beginning of the First World War.
Exhibitions and publications have constructed her as a ‘woman and artist’ and an ‘artist of the people’, describing her work as ‘the art of compassion’, but this exhibition will look at her as someone who first and foremost illuminates what it means to be an artist and to sustain a creative life.
The exhibition is organised in partnership between the British Museum and Ikon, and is supported by the Dorset Foundation.
Ferens Art Gallery’s Exhibitions Officer Claire Longrigg said: “I am delighted that this fantastic exhibition will visit the Ferens this summer. Kollwitz is one of Germany’s most important artists of the early 20th century.
It’s an opportunity to give local audiences the chance to experience her emotive work thanks to the generosity of our partners at the British Museum and Ikon Gallery.”
Curator of the exhibition and former Deputy Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum Frances Carey said:
“Kollwitz speaks to people everywhere. It is a privilege to bring this remarkable artist to Hull, a city not unlike her native Königsberg which, together with Berlin, inspired her commitment to expressing the lives of others, and of working woman in particular.”
Councillor Marjorie Brabazon, Chair of Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, said:
“It has been quite a remarkable past few years for the Ferens Art Gallery. From the fabulous SKIN exhibition that featured Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull, to the restoration and unveiling of Pietro Lorenzetti’s Christ between Saints Paul and Peter, and of course last year’s Turner Prize, the gallery has displayed some incredible pieces of art.
“Next week is an exciting and proud one for the gallery as we find out if we have been named as the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year. It is the gallery’s ability to display high profile exhibitions, like Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz, that has gained us national recognition and resulted in us being shortlisted for prestigious awards like Museum of the Year.”
Museum of the Year is announced on Thursday 5 July.
There is a programme of talks and print workshops to complement the exhibition. To find out more about these events, visit www.hcandl.co.uk/ferens
This free exhibition will run from 30 June to 30 September 2018 in Gallery 7. From 1 July the Gallery is open Monday – Saturday, 10am – 4.30pm, and Sunday, 11am – 4pm.
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