Memorial print for Karl Liebknecht, Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz
Memorial print for Karl Liebknecht
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Käthe Kollwitz

Memorial print for Karl Liebknecht, 1920

458 x 620 mm
355 x 500 mm
Physical Description
Woodcut on Japanese paper
Inventory Number
SG 4254
Object Number
SG 4254 D
Acquired in 1964 from the collection of Helmut and Hedwig Goedeckemeyer
On display, Special Exhibitions


About the Work

A composition Kollwitz had begun working on in 1919, this woodcut was often misunderstood as an affirmation of the politics of Karl Liebknecht, a co-founder of the radical left-wing Sparticist League. In the years after World War II, it was even interpreted as the “birth certificate of Socialist Realism”. In fact, however, the artist took a critical stance on Liebknecht’s politics. She appreciated his anti-war efforts but intended the print primarily as a depiction of a timeless, existential experience of shared grief.

About the Acquisition

Immediately after World War I, the art connoisseur and bibliophile Helmut Goedeckemeyer (1898–1983) began amassing one of the largest collections of prints by Käthe Kollwitz. He supplemented these holdings with works of late nineteenth-century French and German printmaking, illustrated books by Max Slevogt, Alfred Kubin and others, and small-scale sculptures by such artists as Aristide Maillol. His collection ultimately encompassed more than 5,000 works. Goedeckemeyer’s close ties to the Städel Museum date back to the 1920s. From 1959 onwards, he and his wife Hedwig were members of the Städelscher Museums-Verein (Städel Museum Association). The City of Frankfurt acquired his Kollwitz collection for the Städtische Galerie (Municipal Gallery) in 1964. He made several gifts to the Städel collection of prints and drawings over the years, and in 1970 presented the museum with Honoré Daumier’s “Ratapoil” (inv. no. St.P391).

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