Two months after the death of her son Peter in 1914, Käthe Kollwitz decided to create a personal memorial for him. But, as she explained in her diary, she also wished to impart a greater and more universal importance to his death: “I want to honor the death of all you young war volunteers through your [Peter’s] embodiment. In iron or bronze will it be cast and remain for centuries.” Never completely satisfied with the result, it took her until 1931 to complete the sculptures titled The Grieving Parents. The life-sized sculptures of Käthe and her husband Karl in mourning—each owning his and her own grief—grace the edge of the Vladslow cemetery in Dixmuiden Belgium. Their son is buried among thousands of fellow soldiers, close to the place where they fell during the war.

Kollwitz continued to create sculptures at the end of her career embodying the themes represented in her print work. Most of these highly emotive sculptures, inspired by the work of fellow artist Ernst Barlach, are modest in size. Kollwitz attributed their size to a lack of materials, space, and money, but her declining health and old age also a played a part.


Image: Photo by Michael Degener 2014