Saturday, July 03, 2010

On Kathe Kollwitz

I have been taking full advantage of all the art in the city and find myself madly running around just to catch exhibits before they close. One of my favorites so far have been the Kathe Kollwitz exhibit, now closed, which was going on the the Galerie St. Etienne in midtown. I've always loved her work from the very first time I saw them. I have never seen any in person, so this was a special treat for me. I found myself loving the work she completed earlier in her career, especially of when she was still training.

They are quite different from the drawings that she is more known for. These were more academic and meticulous, but not overworked. I found her linework so delicate and skillful and studied the confident stroke in each mark. Confidence and boldness rings through all of her drawings, but the earlier ones held a quiet confidence. The compositions were compelling and none were executed in an overly fastidious manner. Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures of the work and could only find one image online.

Some of her more complicated themes depicting war, death, loss and suffering are reminiscent of a modern Goya near the end of the 19th century and at the turn of the 20th. She certainly had her obsessions. She explored these themes, along with the theme of self-portrait extensively throughout her career.

I learned that her father had recognized her great talent and excellent skills in draughtsmanship thus arranged for private instruction at a young age. How progressive. He believed in her exceptional skill so much that he did not want her to marry. He was afraid that marriage and the role of a woman in those times as a wife would demolish any hopes of her daughter's career. He was ahead of his time. Yet, despite marriage, she forged on.

I wonder if she is an influence on Kiki Smith? Some of her charcoal drawings remind me of Smith's own drawings (the feeling of the drawings, not the execution). Her images are fresh in my mind. I think about them extensively and carry them with me. I wonder how they will arise in the exploration of my own work and development.