- Käthe Kollwitz’s Witness to War: Gender, Authority, and Reception
- Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature & Culture
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 27, 2011
- pp. 87-107
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) is one of Germany’s most popular and successful graphic artists and sculptors, but her witness to World War I has often been overlooked or misinterpreted. Consequently, the authority based on direct experience has gone unacknowledged. This article compares two cycles from Weimar Germany: Kollwitz’s seven woodcuts, War (Krieg, 1923–24), and Otto Dix’s fifty etchings, The War (Der Krieg, 1922–33), and argues that the previous reception of both artists’ works made gendered assumptions about the experience of war as well as the creative process. This reception tends to stress the emotionality of Kollwitz’s work, while overemphasizing Dix’s ironic detachment and antiwar stance at the expense of a deeper psychological complexity. By contrast, I demonstrate that responding to both artists on equal terms as moral witnesses to war enables a deeper understanding of their art and challenges and expands our understanding of the nature of war itself.