Printmaker's art captures tragedy of war victims

Updated: 2015-10-27 08:41

By Lin Qi(China Daily)

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Printmaker's art captures tragedy of war victims

Power of Black and White shows the impact of Kaethe Kollwitz's art in Germany and China. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

An enlarged replica of the sculpture is the centerpiece of the Neue Wache (new guardhouse) in Berlin, a memorial to the sufferers of dictatorship and war.

Another sculpture, Der Schwebende (the floating), portrays a flying angel hung in midair. The angel's face resembles Kollwitz's and the piece is the only exhibit not her work.

It was crafted by Ernst Barlach, the German expressionist sculptor and a longtime friend who shared common artistic views, and who imported in the sculpture his respect of Kollwitz.

"Her heart and mind were always occupied with empathy for the poor," Klaus Siebenhaar, a professor with Free University of Berlin, says of Kollwitz. He curated the exhibition with his colleague Matthias Henkel.

"She and her husband, Karl Kollwitz, a doctor, lived in a district where a lot of the underprivileged took shelter. Karl treated poor patients at their apartment, by which Kathe got to be more knowledgeable of their situations and was inspired to create," Siebenhaar tells China Daily.

Siebenhaar says the exhibition shows the impact of Kollwitz's art in Germany and how it influenced Chinese art.

Dozens of schools in Germany are named after her and three museums are solely dedicated to her art, including the Kaethe Kollwitz Museum Berlin, whose collections are on show.

Kollwitz has a lot of Chinese fans who are fascinated by both the miseries and beauty of life expressed in her works.

Her art and engraving style has influenced profoundly several generations of Chinese printmaking artists since the 1930s, Wu says.

Despite her achievements, Kollwitz never regarded herself as someone special, according to Jan Kollwitz, her great-grandson and a ceramic artist.

"She lived a very modest and ordinary life. Because Karl (the husband) served the poor, they couldn't afford to buy a house and settled in apartments," Jan Kollwitz says.

There are four sculptures on show that are from the family collection.

"She was struggling with expressing purity in her works. She worked hard till the last moment of her life," he says.

If you go

9 am-5 pm, through Nov 23. National Art Museum of China, 1 Wusi Street, Dongcheng district, Beijing. 010-6400-1476.


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