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Käthe Kollwitz in Dresden

Käthe Kollwitz in Dresden


Käthe Kollwitz is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and arguably the greatest female artist. Her undeniable talent soon established her as a leading printmaker in a profession then dominated by men, even though she was a fierce social critic and focused her aesthetic vision on women and the working class. Known for her total mastery of graphic art, Kollwitz is equally recognised for her work’s deep humanity and emotional power. This lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanies a major exhibition to showcase the artist’s early work, self-portraits and relationship with her major patron, Max Lehrs, and is timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of her birth.


The Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett (Museum of Prints, Drawings and Photographs of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), which has one of the greatest collections of prints and drawings in Europe, has particularly important and unique holdings of the work of the outstanding German graphic artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945). Kollwitz formed a long association with Max Lehrs (1855–1938), a leading art historian and then the director of the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett, and Lehrs became Kollwitz’s discerning supporter.  


From 1898 Lehrs began buying Kollwitz’s work systematically – which, in the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II, was a remarkable thing for a man in his position to do, considering that she was a woman artist with marked socialist leanings. Indeed the first work he purchased for the Dresden Museum was her provocative cycle entitled A Weavers’ Revolt. Lehrs went on to purchase more than 200 works for the Kupferstich-Kabinett, taking care to document their evolution. The Kupferstich-Kabinett holds a rich correspondence between Lehrs and the artist, which has been newly researched and analysed. Since Lehrs collected contemporary graphic art internationally  – for example Whistler, Munch and Toulouse-Lautrec – the significance he attached to Kollwitz’s work is all the more telling: this renowned print scholar called her “one the greatest talents in the field of printmaking”. 


The exhibition – and especially the catalogue – tell the circumstances and story of the earliest public holding of Kollwitz’s work to be established and of Kollwitz’s full development of her major themes – of war and death, of motherhood and love, and not least of self-portraiture, one of the most fascinating aspects of her oeuvre. 


This relationship between artist and curator was and is exemplary for its time and our time, while the historical perspective and contextualization of these newly re-examined and freshly assessed works reveals new aspects of the artist, who should be much better known in the English-speaking world.   


Petra Kuhlmann-Hodick is Senior Curator at Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden; Agnes Matthias is Research Curator at Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Alexandra von der Knesebeck is author of the catalogue raisonné of Käthe Kollwitz’s prints; Hannelore Fischer is Director of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, Cologne.

  • Petra Kuhlmann-Hodick, et al.

    By Petra Kuhlmann-Hodick, Alexandra von dem Knesebeck, Agnes Matthias and Hannelore Fischer


    October 2017

    ISBN: 978-1-911300-30-4

    Paperback, 300 x 230 mm

    176 pages, 120 illus.

  • Exhibition

    Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett

    19 October 2017 - 14 January 2018

  • In the press

    "A remarkable and unusual book, a genuinely original contribution to art history." —Art Newspaper


    “A striking and important book.” —Art History 


    "It is remarkable how contemporary her works appear both in their direct emotional contact with the viewer and the economy with which the prints are drawn. These are images stripped down to basics and speak of the resilience of the human spirit, even when confronted by intense tragedy and suffering." —Print Quarterly 


    "One of the most highly recorded artists of her time." (Kollwitz eine der beachtetsten Kunstlerinnen ihrer Zeit) —Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


    "Comprehensive ... Käthe Kollwitz in Dresden charts the emergence of the first Kollwitz collection through etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, and drawings from every period of the artist’s career." —Blouinartinfo 

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