Käthe Kollwitz, Self-Portrait with Head Resting on Hand, 1889–1891 / Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne / Photo Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne
Mar 20 – Jun 9, 2024
Städel Museum
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

She was the most famous German woman artist of the twentieth century and nevertheless an exceptional phenomenon: Käthe Kollwitz. The Städel Museum is celebrating her diversity, explosive power, and modernity with a major exhibition. As an artist, Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) followed paths of her own: She devoted herself not to painting, but above all printmaking and drawing – a decision as bold as it was determined – and there found her way to an independent pictorial language distinguished by incisive immediacy. In the hope of influencing society with her art, she explored existential human questions from a new perspective, also addressing troublesome topics. Not least of all for that reason, the artist and her work were politically instrumentalized in Germany after 1945 – a reception still impacting our collective conception of her to this day.

This complex history of Käthe Kollwitz’s public reception as well as the Städel Museum’s own extensive holdings, enhanced by works from leading museums and private collections, form the point of departure for the exhibition. More than 110 striking works on paper, sculptures, and early paintings by the artist will be on view, including outstanding loans from the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett, the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Cologne, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sprengel Museum Hannover, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and elsewhere. These works will bear trenchant witness to Kollwitz’s decision in favour of graphic art as well as her nonconformity and love for experimentation. They will reveal the special nature of her themes, her formal vocabulary and her compositional dramaturgy. The show will moreover explore the charged relationship between aesthetics and politics in her oeuvre. Finally, an overview of how the artist was assessed on both sides of the inner-German border after 1945 will serve as a reflection on the power of cultural-political narratives.

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