Käthe Kollwitz – Mother with Boy

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was a German artist. She lived through both world wars, lost her brother and her younger son in WWI and her grand son in WWII. Needless to say that these losses left a great impression on her. She was a committed socialist and pacifist. Quite often she depicted death, hunger, and the devastation of war in her art. She mostly sculpted but also produced very impressive drawings. Her sculptures are outstanding, very special and among my favorites. I had the pleasure to see (and touch – a very special treat) some of her super large sculptures in the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Berlin. A friend who visited this museum very recently sent me a postcard featuring one of her drawings called “Mother with Boy”. Kollwitz very often made the Mother a central figure of her art. Mothers who give birth to their sons, only to lose them in horrible senseless wars.

I’m so impressed with the seemingly simple style of her art, and I wanted to study her technique. Turns out, it might look simple but it has a lot of little intricacies that are harder to reproduce than it seems. I find, the best way is really to copy and experience how the artist did it. When I say copy, I mean looking and drawing free hand – no cheating with any helpful tools like rulers or so. The point is to train your eye and to get a sense for the technique of the artist.

Why is this line exactly here and not there? What happens if I move it just a bit? Is this little dot of importance? Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind while trying to copy her drawing. Again, it looks so simple at first sight, but it was actually really hard to copy. It helps when I step away for a few hours or even a day or two. It also helps, when I look at a photo of her and my drawing side by side (as you see below). For some reason I notice other things when I look at a photo instead of the actual drawing. And every time I see another little thing that needs “fixing”.

An amazing exercise, that I enjoyed immensely. I stopped at some point. It can still be improved. However, that is also a lesson I learned from this exercise. You stop at some point and accept the result. And then start over, if you wish. Every time you learn something new. Try it !

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