Thursday, November 23, 2017

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry

This landmark exhibition examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting, or depictions of daily life. The introduction of quiet scenes unfolding in private household spaces and featuring elegant ladies and gentlemen was among the most striking innovations of Dutch painting of the Golden Age, a time of unparalleled innovation and prosperity.

The exhibition brings together nearly 70 works by Vermeer and his fellow painters, including Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris, Caspar Netscher, and Jan Steen, who lived in various towns throughout the Dutch Republic, from Delft and Deventer to Amsterdam and Leiden. Juxtaposing paintings related by theme, motif, and composition, the exhibition explores how these artists inspired, rivaled, surpassed, and pushed each other to greater artistic achievement. The exhibition features 10 paintings by Vermeer (many of which have not been seen in the United States since the Gallery’s 1995–1996 exhibition Johannes Vermeer), including  

  • Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, c. 1670–1671, oil on canvas on panel, Musée du Louvre, Département des peintures, Paris, Acquired in 1870

The Lacemaker (c. 1669–1670, Musée du Louvre, Paris)

 Johannes Vermeer, The Love Letter, c. 1669-70 oil on canvas Rijksmuseum, purchased with the support of Vereniging Rembrandt
and The Love Letter (c. 1669–1670, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry

A fully illustrated catalog features essays by the curators and essays and entries by a team of international scholars.

This exhibition is curated by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Dr. Adriaan Waiboer, head of collections and research, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; and Blaise Ducos, curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing, c. 1665-1667, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr, in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer
Johannes Vermeer, The Astronomer, 1668, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des peintures, Acquired by "dation" in 1982. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre)/Franck Raux

  • Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, c. 1670–1671, oil on canvas on panel, Musée du Louvre, Département des peintures, Paris, Acquired in 1870
    1 of 1

    Gabriel Metsu, Man Writing a Letter, c. 1664–1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, 1987 (Beit Collection)

    Gabriel Metsu, The Intruder, c. 1659–1662, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
  • 2 of 11

  • Gabriel Metsu, Woman Reading a Letter, c. 1664–1666, oil on panel, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, 1987 (Beit Collection)

Gerrit Dou, Woman at the Clavichord, c. 1665, oil on panel, By Permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Gerard ter Borch, Lady at Her Toilet, c. 1660, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Eleanor Clay Ford Fund, General Membership Fund, Endowment Income Fund and Special Activities Fund

Gerard ter Borch, The Suitor’s Visit, c. 1658, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

Albrecht Dürer: The Age of Reformation and Renaissance

Cincinnati Art Museum
November 17, 2017–February 11, 2018

Explore a 500-year-old revolution in printmaking technology at the Cincinnati Art Museum’s free special exhibition Albrecht Dürer: The Age of Reformation and Renaissance, on view November 17, 2017–February 11, 2018.
Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Germany, Flight into Egypt for Life of the Virgin, circa 1504, woodcut, Bequest of Herbert Greer French, 1943.228

The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of several Cincinnati area arts organizations who will commemorate 500 years since Martin Luther issued his 95 theses in 1517, triggering enormous theological, political and cultural changes throughout Europe.
Albrecht Dürer (14711528), Germany, Melancholia I, 1514, engraving, Bequest of Herbert Greer French, 1943.204

The Age of Reformation and Renaissance follows the development of Dürer’s artistic brilliance from his apprenticeship through the eve of the Reformation. Through Dürer’s works, visitors will experience the artistic, cultural and political changes that lead up to Luther’s defiant act.

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Germany, Landscape with the Cannon, 1518, etching, Bequest of Herbert Greer French, 1943.207

Dürer’s political and social influence are evident in the prints in the exhibition, including popular artworks

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Germany, The Four Horsemen for The Apocalypse, circa 1497–98, woodcut (proof before text), Bequest of Herbert Greer French, 1943.212
The Four Horsemen from The Apocalypse

and Knight, Death and the Devil.

The exhibition features an extensive display of works from Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection, plus works on loan from other museums and collectors, totaling more than 140 pieces by Dürer and his contemporaries.

Kristin Spangenberg, Cincinnati Art Museum Curator of Prints, has organized the exhibition. “The Cincinnati Art Museum joins the local community in commemorating Dürer’s life and legacy through this exhibition,” says Spangenberg. “The highlight of The Age of Reformation and Renaissance is Dürer’s complete series of religious prints. His innovative use of printmaking puts his works on par with artists of the Italian Renaissance, and had led to his international and lasting reputation.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
November 13, 2017–February 12, 2018

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from November 13, 2017, through February 12, 2018, will present a stunning range and number of works by the artist: 133 of his drawings, 3 of his marble sculptures, his earliest painting, and his wood architectural model for a chapel vault. A substantial body of complementary works by his teachers, associates, pupils, and artists who were influenced by him or who worked in collaboration with him will also be displayed for comparison and context.

A towering genius in the history of Western art, Michelangelo was celebrated during his long life for the excellence of his disegno, the power of drawing and invention that provided the foundation for all of the arts. For his mastery of drawing, design, sculpture, painting, and architecture, he was called Il divino ("the divine one") by his contemporaries. His powerful imagery and dazzling technical virtuosity transported viewers and imbued all of his works with a staggering force that continues to enthrall us today.

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer

Selected from 50 public and private collections in the United States and Europe, the exhibition will bring together the largest group of original drawings by Michelangelo ever assembled for public display. Many of the drawings rank among the greatest works of draftsmanship produced. Extraordinary and rare international loans will include the complete series of masterpiece drawings he created for his friend Tommaso de'Cavalieri and a monumental cartoon for his last fresco in the Vatican Palace.

 Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer will widen the conversation about the artist and present an extraordinary opportunity to see many works that are never displayed together. Drawing was the first thing Michelangelo turned to, whether he was creating a painting, a sculpture, or architecture, and it is what unified his career. He is a forceful draftsman and brings a sculptor's understanding and eye. We can see him thinking—almost having a conversation on the sheet of paper—and there is a sense of intimacy and immediacy, as if looking over his shoulder. The exhibition will give visitors an unmatched opportunity to enter the world of this absolute master in the history of art.

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer

Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese (southeast of Florence), and died a wealthy and famous man, on February 18, 1564, in Rome. Although he spent the last 30 years of his life in Rome, his love was always for Florence, his patria (homeland), and all things Florentine. His art, his training, his methods, and his poetry were, to the last, rooted in Florentine culture.

Michelangelo's longevity was extraordinary for a person of his time. Also exceptional for an artist of his era, five major biographies were written during his lifetime or soon after his death.
The exhibition will trace Michelangelo's life and career, beginning with his training as a teenager in the workshop of Ghirlandaio and his earliest painting,

The Torment of Saint Anthony (1487–88),

and first known sculpture, Young Archer (ca. 1490).

It will move on to the commission of his colossal marble sculpture David in 1501,

Design for the Tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere, 1505–1506, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564). Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over stylus ruling and leadpoint. 20-1/16 inches by 12-9/16 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1962. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

the early planning of the Tomb of Pope Julius II,

and the monumental project of painting The Last Judgment on the Sistine Ceiling.

An entire gallery will be devoted to the Sistine Ceiling and will include Michelangelo's original studies for the project.

“Three Labors of Hercules,” 1530–1533, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564). Drawing, red chalk. 10 11/16 inches by 16 5/8 inches. (Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2017,

Portrait of Andrea Quaratesi, 1532, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564). Drawing, black chalk. 16 3/16 inches by 11 ½ inches. (The British Museum, London)
Other sections will explore his portraiture and the beautiful finished drawings he created for close friends; his collaboration and friendship with Venetian artist Sebastiano del Piombo (1485/86–1547); and the drawings and poetry he created for the young nobleman Tommaso de'Cavalieri, whom he met in 1532 and who became a life-long friend.

The artist's last decades in Rome are reflected in the last part of the exhibition and will include, in addition to architectural drawings,


the enormous cartoon (full-scale drawing) he prepared for the Crucifixion of Saint Peter fresco in the Vatican Palace, as well as a rare three-dimensional model for the vault of a chapel.

Said Dr. Bambach: "His creativity continued to be phenomenal until the end when he died at 88."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is indebted to the public and private collections that have graciously lent their treasured holdings to the exhibition, including The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Royal Collection and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Windsor; the Gallerie degli Uffizi and Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence; the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence; the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Casa Buonarroti, Florence; the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples; the Albertina, Vienna; the British Museum, London; and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano, Vatican City.
Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer is organized by Dr. Carmen C. Bambach, Curator in The Met's Department of Drawings and Prints.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue written by Dr. Bambach that will include essays by a team of leading Michelangelo scholars. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

Great reviews, more images:

1. Epoch Times

2. New York Times 

3.  Observer

All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life

Tate Britain
28 February – 27 August 2018

Lucian Freud, Sleeping by the Lion Carpet 1996

Lucian Freud Sleeping by the Lion Carpet 1996. Private Collection / © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images. Image courtesy Acquavella Galleries
A landmark exhibition at Tate Britain next year will celebrate how artists have captured the intense experience of life in paint. All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life will showcase around 100 works by some of the most celebrated modern British artists, with Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon at its heart. It will reveal how their art captures personal and immediate experiences and events, distilling raw sensations through their use of paint, as Freud said: ‘I want the paint to work as flesh does’. Bringing together major works by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego, Jenny Saville, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and many others, this exhibition will make poignant connections across generations of artists and tell an expanded story of figurative painting in the 20th century.
Groups of major and rarely seen works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon will give visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the rich sensuality and intimacy of these two modern masters. Key paintings spanning Freud’s career will explore his studio as both context and subject of his work and will show how his unflinchingly honest depictions of models became more sculptural and visceral over time, in works such as Frank Auerbach 1975-6 and Sleeping by the Lion Carpet 1996. In contrast to Freud’s practice of working from life, the exhibition will look at Bacon’s relationship with photographer John Deakin, whose portraits of friends and lovers were often the starting point for Bacon’s work, including Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne 1966. Earlier works by Bacon like Study after Velazquez 1950 will be shown alongside a sculpture by Giacometti, both artists having explored the enduring presence of isolated figures.
Looking to earlier generations, the exhibition will show how this spirit in painting had been pursued by artists like Walter Sickert and Chaïm Soutine – key precedents for portraying an intimate, subjective and tangible reality. The teaching of William Coldstream at the Slade School of Fine Art and David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic also proved hugely influential. Employing Freud as a fellow tutor, Coldstream encouraged the likes of Michael Andrews and Euan Uglow to fix the visible world on canvas through intense observation, while Bomberg’s vision led students like Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and Dorothy Mead to pursue a more tactile, embodied experience of life. This generation’s work encompassed a wide variety of subjects, from Auerbach’s and Kossoff’s enduring fascination with London’s streets and public spaces to F.N. Souza’s spiritual and symbolic figures, and from Coldstream’s and Freud’s focus on the body in isolation to Michael Andrews’s and R.B. Kitaj’s interest in group scenes and storytelling.
The exhibition will also shed light on the role of women artists in the traditionally male-dominated field of figurative painting. Paula Rego explores the condition of women in society and the roles they play over the course of their lives, while always referring to autobiographical events, as in The Family 1988. Her work underwent a particularly profound change in the late 1980s and 1990s when she returned to working from life. The exhibition will also celebrate a younger generation of painters who continue to pursue the tangible reality of life in their work. Contemporary artists like Cecily Brown, Celia Paul, Jenny Saville and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye work in dialogue with this tradition while also taking the painting of figures in new directions.

Bacon portrait of Freud to be shown for the first time since 1965

Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud 1964

Francis Bacon Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud 1964. The Lewis Collection © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS, London. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
A large-scale painting by Francis Bacon of his friend Lucian Freud is to be shown in Tate Britain’s landmark exhibition All Too Human in February 2018. The work was only seen in public shortly after it was completed – firstly in London in 1964 and then in Hamburg and Stockholm in 1965. It has since remained in private hands and has not been exhibited for over half a century.

Bacon and Freud had a deep and complex friendship, and were often viewed as artistic rivals. They first met in the mid-1940s and were inseparable for years, seeing each other almost daily in Soho’s bars and clubs as well as visiting each other’s studios and occasionally sitting for portraits. The portrait that will be shown at Tate Britain next year is an angst-ridden image of the human figure, bare chested and curled into the corner of a dark room beneath a single lightbulb. The painting stands over six feet high and was originally part of a triptych which Bacon then split into separate works. It was first unveiled in 1964 at the group exhibition Aspects of XX Century Art held at Bacon’s gallery Marlborough Fine Art. It then travelled from the Kunstverein Hamburg to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm over the following year as part of a solo show of Bacon’s work, but has not been seen in public since.

The work will be one of several key Bacon paintings on loan to Tate Britain for the exhibition All Too Human. These will include an important portrait of Bacon’s lover Peter Lacy made in 1962, the year of Lacey’s death, and not seen in the UK since. It shows him seated with a scowling expression and is the first time Bacon portrayed the nude body with its internal organs on display, seemingly bursting through the surface of its skin. An extraordinary Bacon triptych from 1974-77, on loan from a private collection, will also be exhibited for the first time in a UK public gallery in over 30 years. A final homage to George Dyer, the great love of Bacon’s life, it shows a contorted body beneath a black umbrella on a cold stretch of beach.

Alex Farquharson, Director, Tate Britain said:
This will be an unmissable opportunity to see some truly extraordinary paintings, many of which have not been seen for decades. With this exhibition we want to show how British figurative painters found new and powerful ways to capture life on canvas throughout the 20th century, and Bacon’s portraits are some of the greatest examples of that endeavour.

All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life is curated at Tate Britain by Elena Crippa, Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, and Laura Castagnini, Assistant Curator.

It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and a programme of talks and events in the gallery. The exhibitions will tour to the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest later in 2018.

Alberto Giacometti - Woman of Venice IX.jpg

Alberto Giacometti,
Woman of Venice IX
1130 x 165 x 346 mm , Tate

 Chaim Soutine - Landscape at Ceret.jpg

Chaïm Soutine, 1893-
Landscape at Céret
Oil paint on canvas
559 x 838 mm , Tate

 David Bomberg - The Artist's Wife and Baby.jpg

David Bomberg
The Artist's Wife and Baby
Oil paint on canvas
766 x 562 mm , Tate: Presented by Dinora Davies-Rees, the artist's
step-daughter, and her daughter Juliet Lamont through the Contemporary
Art Society 1986 © Tate

 FN Souza - Two Saints in a Landscape.jpg

F.N. Souza 1924-
Two Saints in a Landscape
Acrylic paint on canvas
1283 x 959 mm , Tate
© The estate of F.N. Souza

 Frank Auerbach - Primrose Hill.jpg

Frank Auerbach, born 1931
Primrose Hill
Oil paint on board
1219 x 1467 mm , Tate
© Frank Auerbach

Francis Bacon - Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne.jpg

Francis Bacon - Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne

 ID 001 - Walter Sickert - Nuit d'Été.jpg

Walter Richard Sickert -
Nuit d'Été
Oil paint on canvas
500 x 400 mm
Private Collection, Ivor Braka Ltd

 ID 094 - Michael Andrews - Colony Room I.jpg

Michael Andrews, 1928-1995
Colony Room I
Oil paint on board
1219 x 1827 mm
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift throu
gh The Art Fund, 2006)
©The Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy of James Hyman Gallery, London.

ID 120 - Paula Rego - The Family.jpg

Paula Rego, born 1935
The Family
Acrylic on canvas backed paper
2134 x 2134 mm
Marlborough International Fine Art
© Paula Rego

 Leon Kossoff - Children's Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon.jpg

Leon Kossoff, born 1926
Children's Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon
Oil paint on board
1680 x 2140 x 56 mm , Tate
© Leon Kossoff

Lucian Freud - Girl With Dog.jpg

Lucian Freud, 1922-2011
Girl with a White Dog
Oil paint on canvas
762 x 1016 mm , Tate © Tate 

 Michael Andrews - Melanie and Me Swimming.jpg

Michael Andrews 1928-1995
Melanie and Me Swimming
Acrylic paint on canvas
1955 x 1959 x 77 mm , Tate
© The estate of Michael Andrews

 RB Kitaj - The Wedding.jpg

R.B. Kitaj 1932-
The Wedding
Oil paint on canvas
1829 x 1829 mm , Tate
© The estate of R. B. Kitaj

Monday, November 20, 2017

Käthe Kollwitz: Two Exhibitions

Käthe Kollwitz: Life, Death, and War

National Gallery of Ireland
 6 September - 10 December 2017

The Volunteers Plate 2 from the cycle War
An exhibition of 40 prints and drawings by the German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) will be shown in the National Gallery of Ireland. It is an opportunity for visitors to discover this important artist who created almost 300 prints, around 20 sculptures and some 1450 drawings during her long career.

The works in the exhibition, specially selected by the Gallery from the superb collection at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, will allow visitors to reflect on the effects of war, in particular the grief left in its wake.

Kollwitz’s five print cycles: Revolt of the Weavers (1893-98), 

 The Peasants’ War, 5: Outbreak, 1902/03 (1921 edition) (Soft-ground etching with line, drypoint, aquatint and stopping out on paper – courtesy of Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)
The Ploughman-1907
Peasant War (1902-08),
War, 1: The Sacrifice, Spring 1922 (Woodcut on paper – courtesy of Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)

War (1921-22),

 Proletariat (1924-25),

Death With a Girl in Her Lap Artist: Kathe Kollwitz

and Death (1934-37) place her among the foremost printmakers of the twentieth century.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a free illustrated brochure, and a programme of talks and music.

Curator: Anne Hodge, National Gallery of Ireland

Nice little review
All Good Art is Political  Käthe Kollwitz (and Sue Coe)

Galerie St. Etienne
24 West 57th Street, New York NY 10019
October 26, 2017 - February 10, 2018 

Käthe Kollwitz
Never Again War! 1924. Lithograph with text on dark tan poster paper. 37" x 27" (94 x 68.6 cm). Knesebeck 205/IIIb. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

1897. Lithograph on yellow chine collé, mounted on heavy white wove paper. Signed, lower right. 6 1/8" x 6 1/8" (15.4 x 15.4 cm). Plate 1 from the cycle Revolt of the Weavers. Printed prior to 1907, before the edition of 50 numbered impressions published in 1918. Knesebeck 33/AIIIa.

Storming the Gate
Before 1897. Wash and ink on heavy ivory wove paper Signed, center right. 23 1/4" x 17 1/2" (59.1 x 44.5 cm). Study for the etching of the same title (Knesebeck 37) from the cycle Revolt of the Weavers. Nagel/Timm 135. Private collection.

Storming the Gate
1983-97. Etching on ivory wove paper. Signed, lower right; signed by O. Felsing, and numbered 11/50, lower left. 9 3/8" x 11 5/8" (23.8 x 29.5 cm). Plate 5 from the cycle Revolt of the Weavers. From the edition of 50 numbered impressions published in 1918. Knesebeck 37/IIc.


1903. Etching on heavy wove paper. Signed, lower left. 20" x 23 3/8" (50.8 x 59.4 cm). Plate 5 from the cycle Peasant War. From the first edition of approximately 300 impressions published in 1908. Knesebeck 70/VIIIb. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

Working Woman with Blue Shawl
1903. Lithograph in two colors on heavy cream wove paper. 13 7/8" x 9 3/4" (35.2 x 24.6 cm). Impression from the regular edition, with printed text in the lower margin. Knesebeck 75/AIIIb.


Woman with Scythe
1905. Etching on wove paper. Signed, also by O. Felsing, lower left. 11 3/4" x 11 3/4" (29.8 x 29.8 cm). Plate 3 from the sycle Peasant War. Proof before any edition. Knesebeck 88/V. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.


1907. Etching on heavy white wove paper. Signed, lower right. 16 1/8" x 19 7/8" (41 x 50.5 cm). Plate 6 from the cycle Peasant War. From the first edition of approximately 300 impressions published in 1908. Knesebeck 100/Xb.

1907-08. Etching on heavy wove paper. Signed, lower left. 12 1/8" x 20 3/4" (30.8 x 52.7 cm). Plate 2 from the cycle Peasant War. From the edition of approximately 300 impressions published in 1908. Knesbeck 101/Vb. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

The Prisoners
1908. Charocal on white Ingres paper. Signed, upper right. 18 1/4" x 23" (46.4 x 58.4 cm). Study for plate 7 from the cycle Peasant War (Knesebeck 102). Nagel/Timm 429. Private collection.

The Prisoners
1908. Etching on Japan paper. Signed, lower right, and by O. Felsing, lower left. 12 7/8" x 16 7/8" (32.7 x 42.9 cm). Plate 7 from the cycle Peasant War. Fromt the edtiion published by von der Becke in 1931-41. Knesebeck 102/IXa. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

1909. Etching on heavy cream wove paper. Signed, lower right, and signed by O. Felsing, lower left. 15 5/8" x 20 3/4" (39.7 x 52.7 cm). Proof before the numbered edition published in 1918. Knesebeck 104/VIc.

 Pregnant Woman
1910. Etching on heavy cream wove paper. Signed, lower right. 14 7/8" x 9 3/8" (37.7 x 23.6 cm). From the edition published in 1921. Knesebeck 111/V.

Working Woman (with Earring)
1910. Etching on heavy cream wove paper. Signed, lower right, and by O. Felsing, lower left. 13" x 9 7/8" (32.9 x 25.1 cm). Knesebeck 112/IVc.

Free Our Prisoners!
1919. Lithograph with text on heavy dark beige paper. 26 3/4" x 36 1/8" (67.9 x 91.8 cm). Knesebeck 139/II. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

Killed in Action (First Version)
1919. Lithograph on smooth paper. Signed, lower right. 14 1/8" x 11 3/4" (35.9 x 29.8 cm). One of three recorded impressions. Knesebeck 144. Private collection.


Help Russia!
1921. Lithograph with text on tan poster paper. 26" x 18 3/4" (66 x 47.6 cm). Knesbeck 170/AII. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.


The Volunteers
1921-22. Woodcut on heavy white Japan paper. Signed, lower right, and numbered 63/100, lower left. 13 3/4" x 19 1/2" (34.9 x 49.5 cm). Plate 2 from the cycle War. From the edition of 100 impressions on this paper. Knesebeck 173/IVb. Private collection.


The Widow I
1922-23. Woodcut on heavy cream wove paper. 14 5/8" x 8 7/8" (37.1 x 22.5 cm). Plate 4 from the cycle War. From the edition of 100 impressions printed on the cover of the "A" edition of the portfolio. 


The Sacrifice
1922. Woodcut on heavy cream wove paper. Signed, lower right, and numbered "B 4/100," lower left. 14 5/8" x 15 7/8" (37.1 x 40.3 cm). Plate 1 from the cycle War. From the edition of 100 impressions on this paper. Knesebeck 179/IXc.


1923. Woodcut on thick, soft, textured off-white paper. Signed, lower right. 8 3/4" x 9" (22 x 22.8 cm). One of approximately 20 impressions. Knesebeck 182/VI.


The Survivors
1923. Charcoal on gray wove paper. Signed, lower right. 19 3/8" x 25 1/2" (49.5 x 64.8 cm). Study for the lithograph of the same title (Knesebeck 197). Nagel/Timm 985. Private collection.


Poster Against Paragraph 218
1923. Lithograph with text on thin tan poster paper. 18 1/2" x 17 1/8" (47 x 43.5 cm). Knesebeck 198/II. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.


Germany's Children are Starving
1923. Lithograph on heavy cream wove paper. Signed, upper right. 16 3/4" x 11 3/8" (42.5 x 28.9 cm). Impression from the edition published by Richter. Knesbeck 202/AIVa2.


Fight Hunger/Buy Food Stamps" (Beggars)
1924. Lithograph with text on dark tan poster paper. 13 3/4" x 18" (34.9 x 45.7 cm). Knesbeck 206/AII. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

Käthe Kollwitz
Unemployed 1925. Woodcut, worked over in India ink and white tempera, on heavy soft textured Japan paper. Signed, lower right, and inscribed "I.Z" (1st s[tate]), lower left. 14 1/8" x 11 3/4" (35.9 x 29.8 cm). Plate 1 from the cycle Proletariat. Unique proof. Knesebeck 215/I. Private collection.

Käthe Kollwitz
Cottage Industry 1925. Lithograph with text on thin, tan poster paper. Signed, lower right. 27" x 17 3/4" (68.6 x 45.1 cm). Poster for the 1925 Deutsche Heimarbeit-Ausstellung. Knesebeck 217/BII. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection

Prisoners Listening to Music
1925. Lithograph on soft cream Japan paper. Signed, lower right. 13 1/8" x 12 5/8" (33.4 x 32 cm). From the edition published for members of the Kunstverein Kassel between 1925 adn 1927. Knesebeck 223/IIIa.

Municipal Shelter
1926. Lithograph on off-white wove paper. Signed, lower right. 16 1/2" x 22" (42 x 56 cm). From the edition published for members of the Kunstverein Leipzig in 1926. Knesebeck 226/b.

The Agitator
1926. Lithograph on white wove paper. 12 1/4" x 8 1/2" (31.1 x 21.6 cm). Knesebeck 230/d.

Fettered Man
1928. Lithograph on Velin paper. Signed, lower right, and numbered "N. 21," lower left. 11 1/4" x 7 5/8" (28.5 x 19.3 cm). From the edition of 32 impressions. Knesebeck 241. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

66. 1931. Lithograph on yellowish, heavy, soft wove paper. Signed, lower right. 14 1/2" x 10 1/8" (36.9 x 25.7 cm). Knesebeck 252/IIc. Daniel Stoll and Sibylle von Heydebrand Collection.

Tower of Mothers
1937-38. Bronze with brown patina. 11 1/8" x 10 1/2" (28.3 x 26.7 cm). Cast in 1941 by H. Noack, Berlin, at the artist's request. Private collection.

68. Seed-Corn Must Not be Ground
1941. Lithograph on smooth ivory wove paper. Signed, lower right. 14 1/2" x 15 1/2" (37 x 39.5 cm). Very rare proof; no edition was published. Knesebeck 274. Private collection.


Coe, Sue
Kollwitz, Käthe


All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, “We love the status quo.”... I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. —Toni Morrison

Prior to the twentieth century, art’s political grounding was taken for granted. Most European art—religious scenes, portraits and history painting—affirmed the values and legitimacy of the ruling class. As hereditary monarchs came under fire, first in the French Revolution and then in the more widespread but short-lived revolts of 1848, artists gradually lost their aristocratic support base. Painters like David, Ingres and Delacroix embraced the new order, helping shape the myth of modern France as a land of liberty, fraternity and equality. Others assumed a more critical stance. Daumier, whose caricatures at one point landed him in prison, lobbied for greater social justice. Goya, though employed by the Spanish court, created the satirical etching cycle Caprichos and, in response to Napoléon’s aggressive imperialism, the scathing Disasters of War. Egalitarian idealism, coupled with growing social unrest, prompted artists more frequently to depict peasants and workers. Art remained rooted in political realities, but the emphasis shifted.

A significant number of artists identified with the forces of reform. The descriptor “avant-garde,” first applied to artists in 1825 by the socialist thinker Olinde Rodrigues, originally had political connotations. Artists, Rodrigues thought, were natural leaders in the struggle to remake society. The modernist stylistic upheavals that swept through Europe at the turn of the last century were not about “art for art’s sake.” Artists were looking for new forms that would give expression to the radically new circumstances of modern life. They wanted to sweep away the stale pictorial and moral conventions of the entrenched bourgeoisie. That modernism could indeed be perceived as a political threat was later affirmed by its suppression under Hitler and Stalin.

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) grew up in a family of committed Christian dissidents. Her maternal grandfather, Julius Rupp, was the pastor of an underground Protestant congregation, the Free Society of Königsberg. Hounded by the police, fined and jailed, Rupp taught the future artist to value freedom of conscience over obeisance to the state. Though Kollwitz was not especially religious, she believed in duty, sacrifice and service to a higher cause. She viewed socialism as a secular path to “God’s kingdom on earth”—imagined by her grandfather as a classless society with equality and justice for all. Karl and Konrad Schmidt, the artist’s father and brother, were among the founding members of the German Social Democratic Party.

The German socialists supported women’s rights, and therefore Karl Schmidt encouraged his daughter’s professional aspirations. He dreamed she might become an acclaimed history painter. But such an achievement—then the pinnacle of artistic success—was unattainable for a woman. Prohibited from enrolling at the Academy, females were shunted into the lesser areas of creative endeavor—crafts, printmaking, at most landscape or portrait painting. Fearful of competition, men not only restricted women’s career options, but issued lengthy prescriptive pronouncements about the nature of femininity. Women, they opined, lacked the intellect, objectivity and spiritual understanding required to create anything of note; females could best serve the arts as muses. It was perhaps with these ideas in mind that Kollwitz later ascribed her professional persistence to the “masculine” aspects of her character.

Propelled by personal preference as well as the available educational opportunities, Kollwitz made her way, through a succession of women’s art schools and private lessons, to printmaking. It was a fortuitous choice, because history painting in the grand tradition was waning, along with the aristocracy. History as a subject, however, could better be depicted in a sequence of prints than in a single painted image. Inspired by the print cycles of Max Klinger, Kollwitz’s first foray in this realm was Revolt of the Weavers, a series of three lithographs and three etchings loosely based on Gerhart Hauptmann’s play about the 1844 Silesian weavers’ rebellion. The Weavers prints (1893-97) evidenced a mastery of craft and nuance heretofore seen only in academic history painting: the orchestration of complex figural groupings and subtle chiaroscuro effects in a variety of evocative pictorial spaces to convey a compelling dramatic narrative. Kollwitz’s intensive engagement with the expressive capabilities of printmaking techniques parallels, and to some extent precedes, the work of modernists such as Edvard Munch and the German Brücke artists, but Kollwitz’s prints were revolutionary less in form than in content. And while for male modernists printmaking was always secondary to work in other, more “important” mediums, for Kollwitz it remained primary.

Revolt of the Weavers and Kollwitz’s next, similarly themed print cycle, Peasant War (1902-08), treated both genders as comrades in arms. This was in keeping with the tenets of German socialist feminism, which held that proletarian men and women were united under the yoke of capitalism and would be liberated together when that yoke was lifted. However, through exposure to the working-class patients of her husband Karl Kollwitz, a physician, the artist began to recognize that proletarian women had unique problems stemming from their subordination to and dependency on proletarian men. “As soon as the man drinks or gets sick or loses his job, the same thing always happens,” Kollwitz observed. “Either he hangs like a dead weight on his family and lets them support him...or he becomes depressed... or crazy... or he kills himself.”

Kollwitz grew increasingly concerned with women’s issues such as inadequate wages, temperance, domestic violence and lack of access to contraception or abortion. After completing the Peasant War series, she took her subjects from lived experience rather than history, and motherhood came to assume a central role in her work. The mother’s instinctual drive to save her children from harm was rendered with an evocative realism that encouraged viewers to empathize with the woman’s plight. At the same time, the images were a symbolic call to action, an invocation to fashion a world that would be safe for future generations.

Like many progressive Europeans on both sides of the conflict, Kollwitz initially imagined that World War I would wipe away the stale remnants of bourgeois materialism and lead to a renewal of human society. Steeled by a deeply ingrained sense of duty, she was even prepared to sacrifice her teenaged son, Peter, for the greater good. She grudgingly granted him permission to volunteer, and was devastated when he fell on the Belgian front scarcely two months later. It was hard for the artist to accept that her boy had died for nothing. She only gradually grew to understand not just that this particular war was pointless, but that all wars hobble humanity by eviscerating the rising generation. “Seed-corn,” Kollwitz declared (quoting Goethe), “must not be ground.”

World War I transformed Kollwitz into a committed pacifist. Unlike Otto Dix and George Grosz, whose depictions of the war were conditioned by their army experiences, her War cycle (1921-22) emphasized the home front. In the first plate, The Sacrifice (Das Opfer), a mother holds her infant aloft, as though offering him to the gods. But the German word Opfer also means “victim,” and it is clear that the artist’s interpretation is elegiac rather than heroic. Another plate, The Volunteers, shows a surge of youth heedlessly following the drumbeat of death, Peter’s face recognizable at the forefront. In a 1923 antiwar poster commissioned by the International Federation of Trade Unions and distributed in fourteen languages, Kollwitz focused on the “survivors,” whom she described as “women huddled together in a black lump, protecting their children just as animals do with their own brood.” In 1924, on the tenth anniversary of World War I, she created the iconic poster Never Again War!

No longer the naïve revolutionary who once dreamed of joining her father and brother on the barricades, Kollwitz found it impossible to take sides in the political conflicts that roiled the Weimar Republic. The Social Democrats were too susceptible to rightwing pressure, the Communists too prone to violence. Nevertheless, Peter’s death had redoubled her desire to serve humankind in the broadest sense. She was quick to lend her art in support of any cause that moved her: the food shortages that swept through Germany, Austria and Russia after the war, the plight of prisoners, the poor and, as always, the extra burden shouldered by women and children. Her aim was to “bear witness,” to “express...the suffering of human beings.” “My art serves a purpose,” Kollwitz continued. “I want to exert an influence in my own time, in which human beings are so helpless and destitute.”

Kollwitz’s rejection of any fixed ideology did not keep her work from being appropriated for unintended political ends. Even the Nazis, who quickly eliminated all the artist’s professional outlets, found a use for one of her lithographs, Bread! Though Kollwitz was never a Communist, the East Germans made her their own after World War II. In the West, which sought to whitewash the reality of Nazi collusion, she was offered up as the prototypical “good German.” The evident ease with which socially engaged art could be misappropriated for propaganda purposes prompted many artists to back away from politics in the second half of the twentieth century.

During the Cold War, U.S. cultural policy willfully discredited any sort of political art. Figurative work was dismissed based on its superficial resemblance to Soviet Socialist Realism. The history of prewar European modernism was rewritten to downplay the artists’ humanistic motivations and oftentimes socialist leanings. The critic Clement Greenberg seconded and advanced Alfred Barr’s formalist approach, which drove the agenda at the Museum of Modern Art. The goal, Greenberg decreed, was to create a work of art xso vacuous that it could not “be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself.” Lauded for its lack of apparent content, Abstract Expressionism was used by the American government to galvanize intellectual opposition to Communism and to promote the ideal of democratic freedom abroad.

As the Cold War example demonstrates, it is remarkably difficult to disentangle even ostensibly apolitical art from the dominant power structure. The art world’s attempt to distance itself from the real world in the mistaken belief that this will keep the work “pure” does not solve the problem of misappropriation. Yet artists today remain torn between a desire to address pressing social concerns such as racism, income inequality and climate change, and the arcane visual language favored by the art world. “There’s... too much inbred art about itself or otherwise so specialized that it takes reams of explaining in almost unreadable texts just to say why it’s relevant at all,” the critic Jerry Saltz wrote in a recent jeremiad. “And the things that might feel relevant, or radical, in another context often get so buffered and wrapped in the wealth of the system...that they cease to offer anything new-seeming.” Genuine political engagement is still fundamentally at odds with contemporary art-world practice.

Sue Coe (b. 1951) is not of the art world. As a girl, she assumed she would become a factory worker, like her mother, or a secretary. Art was her escape, at first emotionally and then literally, from a working-class fate. When she was seventeen, Coe got a scholarship to attend the Chelsea School of Art in London, where she trained to be an illustrator. “I knew I had to make a living at art. No one was going to support me except myself,” she recalls. “[Illustration] was one of the few career paths that was open to women: children’s books, or greeting card illustrations, or a job making wallpaper designs (flowers are ‘female’).” In 1972 Coe moved to New York and began doing editorial illustration for The New York Times and similar publications. Designing for the printed page taught the artist to refine her visual messaging. “If the images are not an effective lure,” she explains, “immediately compelling or accessible, the viewer will not consider reading the content.” While then unfamiliar with Klinger’s treatise Painting and Drawing, Coe, like Kollwitz, instinctively understood that black-and-white is better suited to social criticism than color.

Coe had developed the first shreds of a political consciousness protesting the Vietnam War as a student in London. “I could see this was a moral stand,” she remembers, “even though at the time I didn’t know Karl from Groucho.” In New York, she joined the Arts Club, a place where aging Marxists, many of them survivors of the Great Depression and the McCarthy-era blacklist, met to discuss politics and print posters in support of local issues like tenants’ rights. She also broadened her aesthetic horizons, discovering the work of Daumier, Dix, Goya, Grosz and, of course, Kollwitz. Free of formalist dogma and its concomitant prescriptions, which still gripped American academia, Coe selected from the broad panoply of art history those influences that spoke to her. Tired of the constraints imposed by her editors, she also began choosing her own subjects and working on a larger scale.

Coe made her reputation as an artist in the mid 1980s with canvases based on headline events, including the notorious pool-table rape of a New Bedford woman (now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art) and the “subway vigilante,” Bernard Goetz. However (again like Kollwitz), she preferred to work in series that facilitated a more in-depth exploration. “My preference,” she says, “is to choose a topic, or have it choose me, and research it and do it well over a decade.” Coe’s approach is journalistic, and she likes to see her images accompanied by factual reportage, preferably in book form. In 1983, she published her first book, with text by Holly Metz, How to Commit Suicide in South Africa. This and her next book, X (The Life and Times of Malcolm X) (1986), explored the relationship between racial prejudice and genocide. More generally, Coe’s work has been an indictment of the ways in which capitalism subjugates the weak, dividing society into classes of oppressors and victims. Writing in the catalogue of her 1987-89 traveling retrospective, Police State, the art historian Donald Kuspit credited the artist with creating “a new genre, somewhere between political cartoon and history painting.”

Essentially, Sue Coe picked up where Kollwitz left off. Coe views herself as “a witness” who uses art “to help serve justice and highlight the oppression that is concealed.” Even in our media-saturated environment, there are incidents—such as police shootings or the so-called suicides of jailed anti-apartheid activists—that can only be recreated after the fact, and locations—such as slaughterhouses—where cameras are not allowed. There are also a great many horrific places—such as prisons, AIDS wards and sweatshops—that we know exist but prefer to ignore. Coe’s job is to go there, observe and record. “People think they can choose to be indifferent,” she explains, “and the filter of art is a useful veil to present the reality. It opens up a chance to have a dialogue where the viewer asks questions and is more open to the challenge of change.”

For Coe, the predations of capitalism transcend the specifics of identity politics, uniting all socioeconomic minorities in common oppression. Growing up near a slaughterhouse on the outskirts of London, she came to view non-human animals as part of an overriding continuum of corporate violence. “We need economic, gender and species equality,” she declares. Today the sort of widespread hunger depicted by Kollwitz is rarely seen in developed nations. Instead, we suffer from the problems of overproduction, which are subtler and more globally diffuse: malnutrition, the destruction of indigenous crops, deforestation and sweeping environmental degradation. Agribusiness and the meat industry are behind many of these calamities, Coe points out. “Animal agriculture is among the leading causes of climate change,” she says. “Animals as a class of beings are facing extinction.” Coe sees farmed animals as analogous to the children in Kollwitz’s work: innocent creatures trod under by the malevolence of an unjust system; creatures that stand both for themselves and for the future, in that their persecution reflects existential environmental concerns.

From the outset, Coe’s art has been predicated on the belief that, “if people know the facts, they’ll change the system.” How to Commit Suicide in South Africa was widely used as an organizing tool on college campuses, supporting the disinvestment movement that ultimately contributed to the end of apartheid. Since Coe began focusing on animal rights in the late 1980s, people have become much more aware of issues first highlighted in her work: the immense cruelty of factory farming; the meat industry’s disproportionate consumption of natural resources; the concomitant pollution and degradation of our food supply. In fact, these consciousness-raising efforts have proved so successful that Coe worries animal welfare will come to overshadow animal rights. She does not merely want to improve conditions for food animals, but to end meat consumption altogether. She sees her work as empowering viewers with a simple message: go vegan. “Changing what we eat is one way to do something positive for the environment and to help other people,” Coe says. “We can control what we put into our mouths, what we put into our bodies, and with this starting point, who knows what is possible?”

Käthe Kollwitz and Sue Coe are outliers in the context of an art world that, even in its more rebellious moments, has tended to serve the interests of the powerful. Both artists found niches in genres— printmaking and illustration—that connect directly with the general public but are not heavily contested by men. And as women, each intuitively understood the far-ranging effects of discrimination and oppres- sion. “Women are closer to the heel of the boot,” Coe observes. “They are forced into the roles of being the caretaker, the peacemaker, and as such are the last line of defense for the most vulnerable.”

Rooted in the real world, the art of Käthe Kollwitz and Sue Coe communicates with people in a visual language they understand. Though their styles are very different, both artists combine immediately recognizable representational elements with an expressive abbreviation of form that directly engages the emotions. Kollwitz sometimes spent years refining a single image, trying out variations until she found the most effective synthesis of content and form. “It’s always been a balance of form and content, throughout the history of art,” Coe notes. “The work must achieve a level of technique to convince the viewer to look at the sincerity of the content.” “Admittedly, my art is not ‘pure’ art,” Kollwitz declared. “But art nonetheless.” One-hundred-and-fifty years after the older artist’s birth, the magnitude of her accomplishment still resonates, not just with followers like Coe, but with those of us who know we have yet to achieve equality and justice for all.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Sibylle von Heydebrand and Daniel Stoll for lending so many of their Kollwitz treasures to our exhibition. This show would not have been possible without their cooperation. The Galerie St. Etienne’s exhibition coordinator, Fay Beilis Duftler, also provided invaluable contributions to the project. Copies of Sue Coe’s latest book (her seventh), The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto, (122 pages, 115 black & white illustrations, soft-cover) may be purchased for $17.00, plus $10.00 shipping and handling. New York residents, please add sales tax. Checklist entries are accompanied by their catalogue raisonné numbers, where applicable. Image dimensions are given for prints, full dimensions for all other works.