Käthe Kollwitz And The Grieving Parents – Part 1

About 10 years ago, I spent a very lovely weekend with one of my best friends in Köln. As soon as we had arrived, we found a cosy restaurant, where we started planning our 2 days. I remember vividly that my friend wanted to visit the Käthe Kollwitz museum; she had seen some of her works and wanted to know more about the artist. Somehow, however, we never made it to the museum. I don’t know whether this was due to lack of time or lack of interest on my side. Or maybe we were too busy having a good time…

The name got stuck in my head however and soon after our return, I did some research on the Internet. I discovered that Käthe Kollwitz (1867 -1945) was a German artist, who became known for her paintings, printmaking and sculptures. Most of her work was inspired by social unrest and war, focusing on the suffering and the grief of the victims. I simply knew I had to go to that museum.

About a year later I found myself in Köln for one day. And as you may have guessed I did make it to the museum this time. Anyway, I was blown away by her work and learned a lot about her personal life as well. For example, Käthe Kollwitz had lost her youngest son in the battlefields of World War I; this event led to a depression and the making of a sculpture called the Grieving Parents. Unfortunately, photographing was forbidden in the museum, so I had to make do with some postcards.

When I was back home, those postcards stayed on my coffee table for a long time. Finally, I decided to put two of them on the wall of the living room. That’s when I noticed that the Grieving Parents was actually located in Belgium! The name of the place, however, didn’t ring a bell: Vladslo. When I googled the name, it turned to be somewhere in the west of the country, an area which we don’t visit very often…

Fast forward to the first Friday of August 2017. Lars and I had made plans to go swimming that day, but when the weather turned out to be less sunny and warm than predicted, we changed our plans. While Lars was getting ready, I had a look in a touristic brochure of Belgium; imagine my surprise when I found out that there was actually a Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Belgium as well. It is located in a small place called Koekelare, which itself is only 6 kilometres away from Vladslo. 5 minutes later, Lars and I were in the car.

The Käthe Kollwitz Museum is right in the centre of Koekelare and there is ample parking space. The museum is quite small and the entrance fee is low: 5 euros. You start your visit remarkably enough on the second floor, which focuses on the relation between Käthe Kollwitz and her son, his death and how this event influenced her both as a parent and an artist. You can watch a short movie about Peter himself and we really recommend this. Otherwise, the rest of the exhibition will not make a lot of sense.

Peter was an artistic, somewhat rebellious young man, who much like his mother was interested in the political and social unrest in Germany in the beginning of the 20th century. Like other young people of that era, he became convinced that a war could solve a lot of problems. And when World War I broke out he was old enough to be enlisted as a volunteer. His father was against this idea, stating that his youngest was not disciplined enough to enter the army. Käthe Kollwitz, on the other hand, understood Peter’s motivations and encouraged him and finally convinced her husband to let Peter join the army.

Unfortunately, Peter and his mates were killed as soon as they arrived at the battlefield. One week later, his parents received the devastating news. Käthe Kollwitz was overwhelmed both by grief and guilt. It would take years before she could come to terms with this devastating loss.

Käthe Kollwitz tried to express her feelings in a sculpture. Her initial idea was to focus on the sacrifice of her son, but after some years she abandoned this. As time went by, her attention went to the grief of the parents. It would take years before the sculpture was finished, but in the meantime, Käthe Kollwitz kept working on other projects as well.

The first floor of the museum gives a brief overview of Käthe Kollwitz’ career. If you are unfamiliar with her work, this serves as an excellent introduction.

The entrance fee also gives you access to another museum on the same site, telling the history of Flemish labour workers in France in the 19th – 20th century. Unfortunately, it was very hot in the museum, so my visit was a very short one.

It was time for a beer and a last look at the site.

The Käthe Kollwitz Museum is located at Sint-Maartensplein 15b, Koekelare. For more information, you can reach them via email: info@koekelare.be.

In the second part, we will take you to Vladslo and the sculpture itself.

7 Comments

  • ostendnomadography September 25, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    And it’s close to my hometown Oostende! With reading your experience/review… Kathe Kollwitz museum in Koekelare is on my to do list:)! Great blogpost!

    Reply
    • Ingrid D. September 26, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you! And enjoy your visit to this museum!

      Reply
  • stripSearchLA September 26, 2017 at 3:07 am

    That beer looks yummy. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Ingrid D. September 26, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      Cheers! And of course, it is yummy, because it is Belgian beer 😉

      Reply
  • corneliaweberphotography September 26, 2017 at 3:51 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Since I was a teenager some more 50 years ago, I so admired Kaethe Kollwitz work, especially as a female artist. My parents even gave me a copy print of her work for one of my birthdays. Her work and ideas so very speak to me until now.

    Reply
    • Ingrid D. September 26, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      You’re welcome! If only she knew that she still touches people with her work…people from all over the world.

      Reply

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