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Voice against war

Posted February. 23, 2023 07:43,   

Updated February. 23, 2023 07:43


“The Story of Art” by Austria-born art historian Ernst Gombrich has sold over eight million copies worldwide since its first publication in 1950. The heavy book of 688 pages does not feature a single female artist. One female artist, Kathe Kollwitz, was added to the 1994 revised and enlarged edition in German. Who was she and how did she make her name published in the famous book as the only female artist?

Kollwitz was born in a middle-class family in 1871 in the Kingdom of Prussia. She studied art and married a physician at 24 when she opened her eyes to people's lives. Her husband opened a free clinic on the outskirt of Berlin and committed his whole life to the poor and marginalized. Kollwitz was also deeply interested in the lives of such people and produced art that reflected an unjust society.

World War I completely changed Kollwitz’s life and art. Her second son Peter died at war. He was only 18 at the time. The mother who lost her son became an artist who sent out anti-war messages.

Following the end of World War I, Kollwitz showcased a collection, including a series of woodcuts titled “War.” Among the series, a piece titled “The Mothers” is the most famous. Several women are hugging each other as if to put up a protective barrier. It is to protect their children. Mothers are also scared and anxious, but their only choice is to be strong to protect their children. The mothers who became a single, solid mass by relying on each other remind viewers of the pain and sacrifices of German mothers whose children were sent to battlefields to honor the country. It expresses the mothers’ determination not to lose their children in greedy militarism.

“No one should die anymore. Seed grain shall not be milled,” Kollwitz shouted against war. She was an artist representing all mothers who lost their children to war and violence. Even though Gombrich missed recording her, later art historians praised her as the best artist for the people and printmaker representing 20th-century German art.