Friday, December 11, 2009

"No longer diverted by other emotions, I work the way a cow grazes."

As one who tries to tear through work at 100 mph, this idea has a certain appeal. Doesn't this drawing have a restful, haunting look? It's called Mother and Child and was drawn a century ago in 1910. The decision to give features to only one figure makes it more powerful, somehow, and also more contemporary looking. What do you think?

Came across the work of this artist I knew nothing about, Kathe Kollwitz. She left East Prussia (now Russia) to move to Berlin, married a doctor there who operated a clinic in a very poor area. There she saw first-hand the effects of poverty in the early years of the 1900s. She managed to combine motherhood with her work as an artist focusing on printing, etching and drawing. Kollwitz was quite affected by the struggles of the common workers and families in difficulty:

"I must express the suffering of humanity that never ends." In her journals she described "the woman watching who feels everything. …"

The youngest of her two sons was killed in the first World War. She was initially supportive of his patriotic wish to volunteer for the war, and so was thrown into years of second-guessing and regret after his death. It took her twelve years to complete a memorial sculpture, called The Grieving Parents. It stands in Vladslo, Germany, a few miles from Ypres, the site of the vast cemetery for the dead of WWI.

She did not leave Germany during the war, but was forced to leave her home and studio since it was largely destroyed during bombing raids. She worked up into her seventies and died in 1945 just before the war ended. She also lost a grandson during the second World War. She always retained her passion for making art: "For the last third of life there remains only work. It alone is always stimulating, rejuvenating, exciting and satisfying."

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago, in 1978, I think, Dad and I attended an exhibit of women artists at LACMA - one of the first of its kind, I believe. It was a roll call of the greats: Vigee-Lebrun, Artemisia Gentilleschi, Rosa Bonheur, Georgia O'Keeffe, and even Loren MacIver (who might not have been a great, but had an indisputably great name).

    There were three showstoppers: Gentilleschi's 'Judith Beheading Holofernes', Alice Neel's 'T.B. Harlem', and a charcoal drawing by Kathe Kollwitz. Something tells me if was 'Death Overtakes a Woman', but I can't remember for sure. I do remember that it left us agape. I love the economy of the sketch you posted; she did so much with so little.