To complement Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery exhibition, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz, The Barber Institute has just opened a print bay display celebrating the work of Kollwitz and other German expressionist artists who were her contemporaries.
Kollwitz was born one hundred and fifty years ago in 1867 and trained as both a painter and a sculptor. However, she is probably best known for her print making, an example of which can be seen in the lithograph above. Married to a doctor, practising in Berlin, her studios were adjacent to his offices and there she would have found material for the subjects that concerned her most: women affected by war, mother and child relationships, the working classes and the effects that manual labour had on such people.
Although she refused to be labelled politically, living through both World Wars confirmed her as a pacifist and deepened her desire to record and assist those who had suffered. The lithograph depicted here is from 1921 and is entitled Help Russia. Their country Riven by civil war, many Russians were at the point of starvation and this print was disseminated as a means of raising money to support them. It was also turned into a poster urging others to find ways of helping.
Among other artists with prints in the exhibition is Emil Nolde, whose woodcut The Prophet is evidence of his early training as a wood carver. Like many modernist artists, Nolde was to see his work condemned as degenerate by the Nazis. Indeed, more of his work was removed from exhibitions than that of any other artist. There are also two contrasting works by Otto Dix, one from the early part of World War One, when he was still of the opinion that violence could be a force for good and war a cleansing process and a second from his 1924 cycle, Der Krieg, offering a nightmarish depiction of the horrors he had witnessed in the trenches.
The exhibition runs until the January 14th and as always if any of you are in the Birmingham area and would like me to show you round then do let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to arrange something.