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Kathe Kollwitz—powerful images of loss and struggle

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Issue 2601
Storming the Gate, 1893-7
Storming the Gate, 1893-7 (Pic: Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) and © The Trustees of the British Museum)

Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945)lived through some of the most turbulent years of the 20th century. They were years of great hope and terrible tragedy.

Her graphic art, printmaking and sculpture established her reputation in an art world dominated by men.

She was a socialist, active in the Berlin Art Soviet, whose manifesto declared, “Art shall no longer be a luxury of the few but should be enjoyed and experienced by the broad masses.”

Her first series of prints, A Weavers’ Revolt, was inspired by a play which although ostensibly about the 1844 uprisings by handloom weavers, located the cause of injustice in capitalism itself. The prints won a medal at the 1898 Great Berlin Art Exhibition, only for the award to be vetoed by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Kollwitz’s most famous print was Memorial for Karl Liebknecht completed in 1920.

Liebknecht was murdered along with Rosa Luxemburg after the defeat of the Berlin uprising in 1919. Kollwitz made the preliminary drawings in the mortuary on the morning of his funeral.

In the woodcut itself Liebknecht himself is barely visible.

The real subject of the work is the mass of working people who have gathered to mourn his death.

With the rise of Hitler, Kollwitz was barred from exhibiting and was threatened with deportation to a concentration camp.

She fled Berlin in 1943 to escape Allied bombing, dying just 16 days before the end of the war.

The emotional power of her drawing and printmaking is extraordinary, and the exhibition repays more than one viewing.

In this time of war, displacement and revolt, her work is as timely as it ever was.

Tim Evans

Portrait of the Artist—Kathe Kollwitz is on display at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, until 17 June

Threads remastered 

The 1984 television drama that shocked the world has been remastered and re-issued on DVD.

Threads imagines the devastation of nuclear war and people struggling to cope with it in Sheffield.

The series was a searing criticism of the mainstream narrative around nuclear weapons.

It remains relevant with bomb-happy US president Donald Trump in the White House.

2-disc Special Edition (Remastered)
Available from online retailers

MFest—Festival of Muslim cultures and ideas

MFest explores contemporary Muslim thought on subjects from politics to culture.

There will be talks, workshops, performances and an after party on the Saturday night.

Friday 27 April to Sunday 29 April
The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

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