Käthe Kollwitz: Activism Through Art

February 3 – April 10, 2021

Work by Käthe Kollwitz titled "Die Witwe I [The Widow I]", from Krieg [War] (1922-23). Woodcut.
Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), Die Witwe I [The Widow I], from Krieg [War] (1922-23). Woodcut.  The Walter Landauer Collection of Käthe Kollwitz, The William Benton Museum of Art.

This exhibition draws on the Benton’s collection of more than 100 prints and drawings by German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) to explore the relationship between her art and activism. Kollwitz is known for her humanitarianism, determination to communicate to a wide audience, and commitment to socialist ideals, though she never joined a political party. She was also a gifted printmaker who used her art to give voice to the common person, the suffering, and the poor. 

At the center of the exhibition is War [Krieg] (1923), a suite of woodcuts that marks the artist’s turn from intaglio to more widely reproducible print processes, including woodcut and lithography. Rather than the battlefield, the series shows scenes from the home front in a starkly graphic style dominated by fields of black, out of which Kollwitz’s figures seem to emerge. The artist’s first woodcut series, War conveys the raw emotion felt by those who, like Kollwitz, lost a loved one to World War I.