With art that celebrated humanity, printmaker and sculptor Käthe Schmidt Kollwitz (1867-1945) was born on this day in Königsberg, an eastern province of Prussia (Kaliningrad, Russia), the daughter of an affluent mason who encouraged her drawing.
"From my childhood on, my father had expressly wished me to be trained for a career as an artist," she said, "and he was sure there would be no great obstacles to my becoming one."
Educated in Berlin and inspired by the etching of Max Klinger and writings of Emile Zola, Kollwitz became an advocate for humanity. She used simple lines to create her moving self-portraits and powerful images of poverty and the inhumanity of war. She called the stark, poetic purity of her work "reporting" art.
"I should like," she said, "to exert influences in these times when human beings are so perplexed and in need of help."
After the death of her son in World War I, she suffered ("There has been enough of dying! Let not another man fall.") and worked for 18 years to create "The Grieving Parents," a dramatic monument to her son and others lost in Flanders.
In 1936, her work was denounced by the Nazis as propaganda and she spent the ending of her life in seclusion. "For the last third of life there remains only work. It alone is always stimulating, rejuvenating, exciting, and satisfying," she said.
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