Paper 3 Socialist Approach R

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R. Brown
Art 3100­51
Dr. Kang~ Fall 2013
Paper #3 Socialist Approach

Riot by Kathe Kollwitz
This paper is a socialist approach analysis of the work of art “
Riot
” by artist Kathe Kollwitz in 1897. Kollwitz was often referred to as a German expressionist, and many of her art work were devoted to humanity, by carefully documenting historic rebellions and social injustice of the working
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class people. Her finished works combine a mastery of art technique with her use of visual lines and hatching. Although Kathe Kollwitz’s primary reputation is as a graphic artist, she began her career as a painter and ended as a sculptor. She lived and worked among the people whose struggles she depicted in her art, and was able to portray them with an honest and perceptive eye. Kollwitz is well known for her pieces to inexpensive by doing etchings, woodcuts and lithographs using stones, sandpaper and oil based inks. The socialist content of much of her work falls outside the “modernistic ideal of individual artistic freedom”, while she herself regarded “Expressionism as a studio form divorced from the social
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” reality of the current times.

Her interest was in people, their sufferings, joys and struggles. Instead of depicting the beauty in things around her, she depicted it “in human
1

Klein and Klein,

Kathe Kolllwitz: Life in Art
, pp 154-157

2

Chadwick,

Women, Art, and Society, pp 291-292

1

R. Brown
Art 3100­51
Dr. Kang~ Fall 2013
Paper #3 Socialist Approach

intensity, in the physical reflection of the labors, the efforts, the cares and
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concerns, and grieves that made up the lives of real and ordinary people.”

For Kollwitz, the message in her work was to focus awareness on the social ills of the time: war, poverty, starvation, grief and struggle. Her socialist views are very clear in the choices of subject matter she used in her art work. The subject matter of this etching,
Riot
, is part of a six part series called
Weavers,
which include three lithographs: “Poverty,” “Death,” and
“Conspiracy,” and three etchings:”March of the Weaver,” ”Riot,” and”The
End”. The series was inspired by the theatrical play “T he Weavers
” produced by Gerhard Hauptmann in 1892. The plot of the play depicts the revolt of the
Silesian hand weavers that occurred in the region of Silesia in 1844. Silesia is the region of central Europe with some parts spread across Germany and th the Silesians are of German culture. During the 19 century the crisis of the

textile industries was greatly impacted throughout Germany, however,
Silesia is where hardship was most severe. In 1844 the Silesian hand weavers “driven to desperation by a catastrophic fall in prices that led directly to mass starvation and a typhus epidemic rose up in revolt.”4

The vast majority of the population in Germany possessed were agricultural

3

Klein and Klein, p 11


4


Kitchen, Martin,
A History of Modern Germany: 1800 to the Present, p 39

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R. Brown
Art 3100­51
Dr. Kang~ Fall 2013
Paper #3 Socialist Approach

laborers, servants, and factory workers, living on low wages in squalid conditions trying to survive amongst their families.“These horrific series of events awoke the conscience of the people and inspired generations of socially critical artists”.5
Kathe Kollwit’s higzhly pictorial etching in
Riot
shows how the action and motion of the riot is the main focus. This image shows the uprising in full motion as it might have happened. It shows a smooth and ordered rhythm of movement in the kneeling of the women front center picking up stones torn up from the pavement and handing them to the men behind her, who are throwing them at the mansion, faintly etched behind the scene. Also the motion derived by the man extending his hand to request more stones from a child and woman, center right. The people appear angry and distraught by their body language and actions, the hands raised and clinched fist held tight against the gate…