Meeting Report: ‘Motherhood at the Centre: Connecting Creativity and Reproduction in Käthe Kollwitz’s Artistic Practice’

We’d like to thank Elizabeth Kajs for coming all the way from Bristol to our network meeting today. It was wonderful to hear a bit more about Elizabeth’s research and how it has progressed since she presented at the Gendered Spaces symposium in May (organised by the Gender and Sexuality cluster).

Elizabeth contextualised Kollwitz’s art in the political climate of late 19th and early 20th century Germany. She explained that women were seen as the guardians of tradition, were expected to behave passively, as well as assuming the role of the nurturing mother. Kollwitz’s art subverted these ideals of the 3rd Reich and protested against the poor conditions in which the proletariat lived. Elizabeth highlighted the controversial nature of Kollowitz’s art in her portrayal of subject matter such as unwanted pregnancy and domestic abuse. Kollwitz explored these issues in the lives of the working class and took inspiration from the medical records kept by her husband who was a doctor.

The Q and A included a discussion on the reaction of the Third Reich to Kollwitz’s work, its dissemination (such as in a pro abortion pamphlet), the artistic movement into which she fitted best (Elizabeth explained that Kollwitz didn’t fit into any specific tradition but shared some tendencies with naturalism), and her aiding progressive movements through her art (such as drawing an image of a pregnant impoverished woman which was used in a pamphlet produced by an anti-abortion campaign).

Thanks again to everyone to coming along to yet another fascinating paper. We’ll see you next time on the 14th November for Lubna Bahamman’s paper on Saudi Women on twitter.


Report by Maria Tomlinson