Berlin redux: Käthe Kollwitz

While in Berlin over the last week, visiting stepson and his family, we (Frau TD and I) took the grandchildren (19 months and nearly 3) to the park in Kollwitzplatz, in the Pankow district. Seriously cool Berliners stood around a drink stall in the street market, sipping white wine and looking achingly hip.

K KollwitzIn the park I took these pictures of a statue by Gustav Seitz,1958; bronze casting of it placed in the park in1960 (he also sculpted the brothers Mann and Bertolt Brecht). It’s of the artist after whom the square is named: Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945).

A fervent pacifist and, later, communist (hence this statue’s presence in former East Berlin), she lost a son in WWI, and was threatened with deportation by the Gestapo during WWII. But by then her worldwide acclaim was such that they left her alone.

Woman with dead child etching 1903 By The original uploader was VeraHutchinson at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

Woman with dead child: etching 1903. The original uploader was VeraHutchinson at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

She worked as a painter, printmaker (including etchings, lithography and woodcuts) and sculptor. Her most famous works depict the sufferings of the working class inflicted by poverty, hunger and war.

One such cycle is The Weavers, a sequence of lithographs and etchings made in the 1890s, inspired by the play of that name by Gerhart Hauptmann. This was a dramatization of the oppression and subsequent (failed) revolt of Silesian weavers in 1844.

The Peasant War cycle was completed 1902-08. It was inspired by a peasant revolt of the early 1520s in southern Germany, and also perhaps by another work by Hauptmann.

KollwitzI thought at first, before spotting the name of the subject of the statue on the plinth, that it was of a monk: Kollwitz has the severe serenity of the cloister, and the fierce gaze of a hawk.

Interesting to see all the yummy mummies and bearded partners with their wine glasses in the street and park, watching over their privileged offspring. Would have to be plastic beakers in the UK. A little touch of civilisation in a world going increasingly crazy.


7 thoughts on “Berlin redux: Käthe Kollwitz

  1. Another excellent piece on this fascinating city, which is full of history and atmosphere. When I walk round and explore this city I often feel the echoes of its past. This juxtaposition of the modern Berlin with its cool, hip side and its often traumatic history is so interesting to explore.

      • Hi, Simon.

        Just returning after perusing some items from last decade! I went to visit my sister in March 1992 (so 25 years before the hip Berliners) at Wiesbaden (she was there as a U.S. federal agency employee at the time). While she and my Mom went to Paris for the weekend, I took a side trip to Berlin. The most memorable part was heading over to the East Berlin side which had not yet been renovated. There were ancient stores, pre-Cold War signs, old East German-brand cars, and it felt as if there was a patina of dust over everything. Seriously UNcool. The other fun thing was going (on west side) to a deluxe basement grocery in a huge department store and drinking a small “breakfast” beer at 10:00 a.m. I felt extremely decadent! Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *