Galerie St. Etienne
The Galerie St. Etienne's first exhibition of the fall season, KÄTHE KOLLWITZ: Master Printmaker, examines the work of an artist whose pioneering innovations helped shape the language of modern printmaking. Timed to celebrate the publication of the revised catalogue raisonné of Kollwitz's prints, the show includes a wide selection of rare working proofs and preliminary drawings, borrowed from the Käthe Kollwitz museums in Cologne and Berlin, as well as two original etching plates, borrowed from the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, and loans from several American private collections. An in-depth exploration of a master printmaker's creative process, the exhibition coincides with Print Week and the IFPDA Print Fair (held at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City from November 7-10).
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Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was an artist whose achievement bridged the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her earliest work, influenced by the etchings of Max Klinger, was meticulously detailed, but over time she gradually evolved a printmaking style that exploited the medium's potential for simple, vivid expression. Kollwitz was attracted to printmaking not only because it suited her graphic proclivities, but because it offered more professional freedom for a woman than did painting, and because the medium was conducive to conveying and delivering social messages. Kollwitz was committed to documenting and if possible improving the conditions of the German working class, and this mission colored her entire life's work.
An obsessive perfectionist and extremely harsh self-critic, Kollwitz struggled to master the multiple, complex techniques that etchers employ to achieve nuanced gradations of tone. Some of the methods she invented confound experts to this day. In 1908, with the completion of her second print cycle, the Peasants' War, Kollwitz felt she had finally mastered the art of etching, which hereafter began to play a lesser role in her oeuvre. Especially after World War I, she turned to the simpler, more direct techniques of lithography and woodcut. The lithographs typically went through fewer preliminary stages than did her etchings. Far more confident of her vision, Kollwitz was usually able to encapsulate her ideas in a single iconic image rather than crafting the elaborate pictorial narratives of prior years.
Käthe Kollwitz received early notoriety--both positive and negative--with her first print cycle, Revolt of the Weavers, in 1898. However, her reputation truly flourished in the progressive political climate of the Weimar era (1919-33). During this period, she became the first female professor appointed to the Prussian Academy of Art, and many of her prewar prints were reissued in larger editions. These glory days came to an end when Hitler assumed power in 1933, stripped her of her academic title and forbade her to exhibit. However, Kollwitz was so beloved by the German people that Hitler did not dare inflict further harm on her, and she was permitted to remain in her Berlin studio until Allied bombing forced her to flee. She died in 1945, a few days shy of the armistice.
KÄTHE KOLLWITZ: Master Printmaker is documented by a comprehensive checklist, which is available free of charge upon request.