Käthe Kollwitz: Images of a Life

(Käthe Kollwitz – Bilder eines Lebens)

GDR, 1986, 95 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Production Company


Käthe Kollwitz (Jutta Wachowiak) is 47 years old and already a well-established artist in Germany and abroad when Peter, her youngest son, volunteers to join the German army in WWI and gets killed two weeks later. This painful tragedy changes Kollwitz’s life and art forever. She becomes a radical pacifist; in her art she reflects on her son and the meaning of war. After signing a petition against the Nazis, she is excluded from the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin and her art is labeled “degenerate.” Lonely and sick, Kollwitz spends the last days of her life near Dresden and she dies at the age of 78, before the end of WWII. 


Ralf Kirsten—director of The Lost Angel, a homage to German artist Ernst Barlach—used episodes from Kollwitz’s unpublished letters and diaries to fit them together in a mosaic-like self-portrait. 

Press comments

"Highly recommended!" —Video Librarian


“This masterful film eloquently captures the determination and sensitivity with which Kollwitz faced personal tragedy and social turmoil brought by two world wars to produce one of the most profound artistic reflections on the early 20th century.” —Timothy O. Benson, Art Curator, LACMA


“The Brechtian quality of the film allows one to experience the physical and mental transformation of actress Jutta Wachowiak into her role as Käthe Kollwitz, one of the most important female artist of the 20th century. The result is a thoughtful, beautiful film.”—Henriette Kets de Vries, Smith College Museum of Art


"The film movingly captures Kollwitz’s artistic creativity and her simultaneous despair. It is a timeless classic.” —Marion Deshmukh, George Mason University


“Jutta Wachowiak’s dramatic expertise generates scenes filled with beauty and courage, cinematic moments with a profound and lasting impact." —Morgen


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • New digitally restored transfer
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • “Käthe Kollwitz: A Life in Art”, by Seán Allan, University of Warwick
  • “Written Interview with Director Ralf Kirsten and Dramaturg Dieter Wolf” (1987)
  • Käthe Kollwitz: A Conversation with Hildegard Bachert (USA, 2016, dir. Holly Fisher, 19 min)

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