July 8th marked the 150th birthday of Käthe Kollwitz, the beloved German artist who many know as the sculptor of Mother with Her Dead Son, which can be seen inside Neue Wache in Berlin (though not at the moment as the memorial is under renovation).
Galerie Parterre Berlin is hosting an exhibition of Kollwitz’s work – Käthe Kollwitz und Berlin – through September 24, 2017. The gallery is situated on Danziger Strasse, on the former site of the gasworks of Prenzlauer Berg and is a fascinating space in and of itself.
Prenzlauer Berg is a fitting location for this exhibit, as Kollwitz lived in the neighborhood from 1891 through 1943, on the street that is now known as Kollwitz Strasse. The park on the street also bears her name and features a large sculpture of the artist.
Kollwitz’s artworks focused on the poor, the working class, and mothers. Her piece entitled Arbeiter vom Bahnhof kommend (Bahnhof Prenzlauer Allee) – Workers Coming from the Train Station (Prenzlauer Allee Station) – shows workers streaming out of the Prenzlauer Allee S-Bahn station, which looks today nearly exactly as it does in the picture.
In this exhibition, there are a few self-portraits, as well as drawings of her sons, Hans and Peter. However, the overwhelming mood of Kollwitz’s work in the exhibition is somber, with titles such as Tod (Death), Not (Distress), Tod und Frau um das Kind ringend (Death and the Woman Struggling for the Child), Der Tod Greift in eine Kinderschar (Death Grasps a Flock of Children), and Frau mit Kindersarg (Woman with Child’s Coffin). In the drawings, Death is depicted simply as a skeleton – no cloak, no scythe.
There is a distinct variety to the detailing of Kollwitz’s drawings. Some of the works are quite detailed, while others are much simpler, with suggestions of shapes and features for the people depicted. It is amazing to me how she was able to capture the sorrow of a face with just a few suggestive strokes.
The exhibit at Galerie Parterre Berlin includes many works from the Käthe Kollwitz Museums Köln and is supported by the Pankow District Office for Culture and Continuing Education, Akademie der Künste, and Hauptstadt Kulturfonds. It is open until September 24, 2017.
Galerie Parterre Berlin
Danziger Straße 101, Haus 103