Poster »For Greater Berlin«, 1912

Crayon and brush lithograph (transfer), Kn 122 I

Käthe Kollwitz, Poster »For Greater Berlin«, 1912, crayon and brush lithograph (transfer), Kn 122 I, Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz’ second commissioned poster »For Greater Berlin« also caused a scandal, just like her first poster for the Cottage Industry Exhibition in 1906.

This poster advertises a meeting against the housing crisis in Berlin: »600,000 residents of Greater Berlin live in flats in which each room is occupied by 5 and more people. Hundreds of thousands of children have no access to a playground.« Next to the text is a depiction of a bleak backyard with an unsmiling girl holding her sister on her arm. The girls stand in front of a sign that was quite common at that time: »Playing in the yards and stairwells is forbidden«. Although Käthe Kollwitz’ final version did not include the accusatory element of a small boy playing around with a manhole for want of proper toys, the Berlin police president had the poster removed for incitement to class hatred.

Unlike in later posters, Käthe Kollwitz had obviously not had much influence on the layout of the text. The letters are slightly too large in comparison with the image and are too close above the girl’s head. In a letter to her son Hans, the artist complained: »The poster against the tenement flats does not have a good effect when seen from a distance and the image is completely squeezed in between the text. I am very unhappy with it.« (Käthe Kollwitz, Letters to her Son, 3 March 1912)


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