Käthe Kollwitz was born in Königsberg, East Prussia, on 8 July 1876. Käthe was one of the most highly respected German Expressionist artists.

The grieving parents

Käthe Kollwitz © The University of New Hampshire

Käthe was among the many people who were initially enthusiastic about the war. She was less enthusiastic about her son’s, Peter, wish to volunteer for the army. In spite of Peter’s poor health, she showed understanding for his decision, but it was with some concern that she saw her son set off for the front. Peter became a Musketier (rifleman) in the 207th Reserve Infantry Regiment. Ten days after bidding his parents farewell, he was dead - killed on 22 October 1914, near Diksmuide.

The sculpture that Käthe designed for her dead son dominated her life and work for many years. In 1926, Käthe and her husband Karl visited Peter’s grave. The visit persuaded Käthe that the statue should no longer be of her son, but of a grieving couple. From this moment on, she not only wanted to make her own grief tangible, but also the grief of the countless other mothers who had lost a son. Even so, the mother in the design has Käthe’s facial features, while the father resembles her husband Karl.

The figures now stand, close together, at one end of the German military cemetery in Vladslo, with their back to the hedge. Nearby, Peter’s mortal remains are buried in a common grave. One of the stone tiles in front of the sculpture mentions his name.

Cycling in the footsteps of Käthe Kollwitz

The Käthe Kollwitz cycle route is the ideal way to discover the story of Käthe Kollwitz and explore the wartime landscapes of the past. Discover this and other cycle and walking routes.

Back to top