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I'm finding this museum challenge so exciting. Whenever I have an appointment somewhere in the city, I go to the map function on Museum Portal Berlin and see if there is a museum in the area. This time, my appointment brought me to the expensive 'Rodeo Drive of Berlin,' Kurfürstendamm, fondly referred to by the locals as Ku' damm. I don't head out this way often, mostly because I'm not really into the whole designer fashion world and paying an entire paycheque for a piece of clothing. I love Berlin for its bohemian styles, upcycling of anything and everything and thriftiness as fashion. Case in point, my newly quarantined head shave, drew more than a few weird glances and the occasional head turn, which in other parts of Berlin people haven't even batted an eye. I love this city for its diverseness, and well, Ku' damm is not where you're going to find the bulk of it, but if you want glitz and glamour where a man in a suit presents you with champagne as you shop and Maserati's and Tesla's compete for parking places, then Ku' damm is your place to be.
So it was a nice treat that the museum the closest to my appointment was the Käthe Kollwitz Museum. Before moving to Berlin, I didn't even know who Germany's most famous female artist was. I would say that my knowledge of art is pretty rudimentary. I can pick out the mainstream greats, and I've worked hard to cultivate a greater understanding of art and artists by going to art museums in every city I visit, but I've always felt that along with poetry, it is one of my weak points in the creative arts. Once moving to Berlin, I've come across the name of Käthe Kollwitz through two different places. First, the expensive neighbourhood square in Prenzlauberg that bears her name and where she lived for 50 years on Weißenburgerstraße (now Kollwitzstraße) before her apartment was bombed in the war and she moved to Moritzburg for the last two years of her life. The second instance that her name comes up in my life is the reproduction of her famous pietà-style sculpture 'Mother with Dead Son' in the Neue Wache. The original and way smaller sculpture was created in 1937/38, and is in the Käthe Kollwitz museum. Since 1993 an enlarged replica has stood in the Neue Wache which is the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship on Unter den Linden.
I had always wanted to learn more about Käthe Kollwitz and was excited to visit this museum. The woman working at the reception was amiable, helpful and exuded an inviting atmosphere. The museum is quite extensive and contains four floors of Kollwitz's works. The first three floors comprise the permanent exhibit. The main floor is dedicated to the first half of her life, showcasing etchings and sculptures. The second floor is dedicated to the second half of her career, specifically after her son died in 1914 when she turned to the medium of wood cuttings. The 4th floor is a temporary exhibit currently displaying '100 years of Greater Berlin: Käthe Kollwitz and the Misery of the Big City'.
If you chose the audio guide, you would learn more about her life and the works that you are viewing, and I highly recommend it. If you opt-out, that is not a problem, as this museum has translated EVERYTHING into English, including a whole section of letter correspondence between Kollwitz and her family and such famous people as Albert Einstein. The main floor contains replicas of her lithographs as well as an original lithograph machine from the 1800s. A few times a month, they give demonstrations on the lithograph machine, and you can make an appointment to attend.
After spending over an hour and a half wandering around the museum by myself, I have to say I'm a big fan of Käthe Kollwitz. Her work depicts struggle, poverty, sorrow and death. She focused a lot of her attention to the topic of the proletariat: poverty amongst the lower classes, the over population of Berlin at the turn of the century and the housing crisis that resulted from Berlin growing so fast becoming the 3rd largest city in the world by 1920, as well as the sorrows and loss of war and the relationship between mother and child. I could analyze the very masculine faces on her women figures and look into the eyes of women who have known loss as only a mother who has grieved the loss of a child herself could know. I fell in love with her woodcuts and loved seeing the original smaller version of her Pietà. This museum is very well curated and kept my interest throughout. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those who don't know her work, as I know you will leave a big fan.
Born in 1867 in the Prussian capital of Königsberg, now the Russian enclave Kaliningrad, she moved to Berlin 1891, joined the Berlin Secession in 1899 and was named a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1919-the first woman to receive this honour. She married Karl Kollwitz in 1891 and had two boys. Her youngest son, Peter, enthusiastically joined the volunteer corps in World War 1 and was killed in battle in Flanders, Belgium, in Oct 1914. From this point on, sorrow and death permeated her work. Her oldest son Hans followed in her husband's footsteps to become a doctor, but after his mother's death, increasingly dedicated his time to promoting and conserving her works. Kollwitz was a life long socialist, who was also interested in communism and created the commemorative woodcutting of the murdered socialist revolutionary Karl Liebknecht in 1919. In 1933 she fought for the communists and socialists to join forces to prevent the Nazis from winning a majority, a fight which lost her her job and almost her life in a concentration camp. Kollwitz and her husband refused to leave Nazi Germany, and she continued to stand up for human rights until the very end of her life. Her husband died in 1940, her grandson died in battle in Russia in 1942, and she passed away on April 22, 1945, just weeks before the end of World War 2.
There are quite a few things to do if you come to Charlottenburg, specifically Ku' damm, but not so many museums. Some suggestions include lunch on the terrace at Reinhard's Restaurant where I sat to write this article and enjoyed a massive ice-cream coffee. Follow up your museum visit with a stop next door at Literaturhaus Berlin, check their website for upcoming exhibits and shows, or take a tour. Don't forget a look around the bookstore in the basement or a meal in their beautiful restaurant.
Admission: Regular 7€
Groups of 12 persons and more 4€ per person
Free entry for children, students and apprentices
Guided tours in German, English and French upon appointment
Audioguides in English and German €2. (Highly recommend)
Hours of operation:
Open DAILY from 11-18:00 16:00 during Corona.
Address: Fasanenstr. 24, 10719 Berlin
Phone: 030 882 52 10
Lockers: no, but they have an unattended coat check
Address: Fasanenstr. 24
10719 Berlin (Charlottenburg)
Average time to pass through museum: 45-1.5 hours.
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