Käthe Kollwitz was the first comprehensive treatment of this influential artist to be written in English, although other publications, primarily lists of her works or reproductions of her prints, did appear before 1972. The book was not intended only for youthful audiences or for students of biography, as it is a significant contribution to the history of German art from the beginning of the twentieth century to 1945, but the clear, accessible writing and Kollwitz’s exemplary life give the work great appeal for young readers. It can be used by students in several areas of the curriculum and deserves study especially because of the moral stance adopted by the artist throughout her life.
The narrative describes Kollwitz’s social background, taking a traditional psychological approach to the role of her maternal grandfather, father, and closest female sibling in the formation of the artist’s attitudes. Throughout her life, Kollwitz was a solitary, taciturn person, sufficiently fulfilled by her relationships to close family members and by artistic expression. Her father was disappointed that she was a girl: He believed that her obvious talent would go unnoticed because she was supposed to be destined for marriage. Indeed, her sister Lina’s interest in art—as considerable as Küthe’s, according to reports—was abandoned at the time of her early marriage.
Kollwitz, who had met her future husband at the age of seventeen, did not marry until many years later. The authors relate in some detail how, under the tutelage of a single teacher and then at art schools in Berlin and Munich, she attempted to perfect her technique—not as a painter but as...
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The authors of this biography emphasize that the timeless elements of Kollwitz’s art—her depictions of individuals and of eternal emotions, such as mother love, suffering, mourning, and the acceptance of death—enable young adult readers to comprehend and to benefit from the study of her life. It is her moral courage, her quiet determination to be an artist in an age without female role models, and her life of hard work that have assured her fame.
There has always been lively interest in the periods of art that lasted from the beginning of the twentieth century to World War I: Impressionism, naturalism, and then expressionism. There is even more emphasis in historical and social studies on the causes and outcomes of World War II, as well as the ways in which some people expressed their resistance to Adolf Hitler in Germany. This book provides a panoramic view of the first half of the twentieth century in German art and society through the life of an inspiring German woman. It deserves to receive even wider readership than it has enjoyed in its two editions.