Käthe Kollwitz in Berlin

If you’re headed to Berlin, you probably know by now that the city is full of museums. One museum that tends to be overlooked is the Käthe Kollwitz Museum located in the Charlottenburg area. The museum houses a collection of works created by Berlin’s most acclaimed female artist, Käthe Kollwitz.

The loss of her son in World War I, the lost of her grandson in World War II and the many sick, poor and afflicted people she worked with inspired art that many would describe as dark and depressing. Kollwitz’s work depicts heavy themes of poverty, sickness, death and fear. Visiting the museum is by no means an uplifting experience, however a visit does provide many powerful and thought provoking moments about the horrors of mankind. While the museum may seem rather small, the villa actually houses nearly five decades of work that depicts the oppressed, the sick, the needy and the dead. You’ll find an array of charcoal sketches, lithographs, sculptures and woodcuts throughout the villa that opened in 1986.

The Käthe Kollwitz Museum is easily one of my favorite museums in Berlin and one of my top “off the beaten track” European travel tips. Kollwitz inspired me to give more consideration about the sick and the needy living in the world today. She was a true humanitarian and was never blind to the harsh realities facing her people during war. It’s nearly impossible to leave the museum without wanting to make a huge difference among people in the world. If you find that you enjoyed the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, then I suggest heading over to the Neue Wache on the north side of Unter den Linden. The building has been used as a war memorial ever since 1931 and houses one of Kollwitz’s best works — Mother with her Dead Son. This powerful piece depicts a mother holding her dead son who died in World War II. You may notice that the sculpture mirrors the Pieta located inside of the Vatican in Rome – which depicts Mary holding Jesus Christ after the crucifixion. If you noticed this parallel, then you’re right on target. Kollwitz wanted to create a statue that showed the ultimate pain felt from a mother mourning the loss of her son. Also notice the oculus on the ceiling of the building. Kollwitz’s sculpture is placed directly under the oculus so that it is exposed to harsh weather. Being exposed to rain, snow and cold temperatures is supposed to symbolize the suffering from two World Wars. If you love art or if you consider yourself a pacifist, then you won’t want to miss seeing work created by Germany’s most famous advocate and female pacifist, Käthe Kollwitz.

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