The fear of loss, parting, and death as artistic themes accompany Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) throughout many decades of her artistic career and occupy a special place in her oeuvre. It is above all in these works that she is able to express universal aspects of humanity in a way that is both haunting and timeless – to this day, viewers identify with her works and see themselves reflected in them.
This is one of the reasons why Käthe Kollwitz is considered one of the most important German artists of the early twentieth century. The Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of her works. Due to construction measures, the exhibition rooms will remain closed until the end of 2023. However, her work will remain visible in the series Encounters - Käthe Kollwitz as a Guest in ... . The exhibition in the Cologne Cathedral Treasury features a selection of her most impressive drawings, prints, and sculptures.
‘I want to have an impact in these times’, Käthe Kollwitz wrote in 1922 with regard to the posters and leaflets she designed with socio-political intentions. This statement can also be applied to her artistic engagement with works on the themes of parting and death, which repeatedly take up motifs from Christian iconography, such as the Pietà and the Virgin of Mercy. However, these are not to be understood as illustrations of religious content. Rather, the artist takes up pictorial traditions and translates them into a secular context.
Her works are often created in direct confrontation with personal experiences and strokes of fate. The life-threatening diphtheria infection of her elder son Hans in 1908 is particularly formative. Only a few years later, in 1914, she loses her younger son Peter in the First World War. This suffering not only changes the mother Käthe Kollwitz, but also the artist and her work. Inspired by her surroundings and at the same time by the dramatic political events up to her own death in 1945, she reflects these years of upheaval in her work, like a chronicler of her time.
Loving and having to give up what one loves most dearly,
and having it still – always the same. How is it that for years,
many years, the same theme was always being repeated in my work?
Käthe Kollwitz, letter to her son Hans, 29 January 1915
The exhibition covers a period of roughly forty years and documents the artist’s intense preoccupation with these highly personal and moving themes.
An exhibition of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln in cooperation with the Cologne Cathedral Treasury.
Cologne Cathedral Treasury
The Cathedral Treasury houses precious reliquaries, liturgical utensils, manuscripts, vestments and insignia of archbishops and cathedral clergy from the 4th to the 20th century and is presented in the converted historical cellar vaults of the 13th century.
COLOGNE CATHEDRAL TREASURY
You will find the Treasury on the north side of the cathedral (station side).
In the cathedral itself, there is an entrance to the Treasury in the northern transept.
The Treasury is handicapped accessible.
Opening hours + admission fees
The Cathedral Treasury is open daily from 10 am - 6 pm.
Adults: 6 €, reduced 3 €
Family ticket: 12 €