Käthe Kollwitz: Never Again War!

Subject:Art/Social Studies

Grade Levels: 6 through 12


Sunshine State Standards:

View all Sunshine State Standards


Procedure: Unit Study

Day One

  1. Introduce Käthe Kollwitz, her life and works. She made more than one hundred self-portraits. Ask students if they can think of any other artist who is renowned for his self portraits.
  2. Show students examples of work by Kollwitz and other graphic artists. Consider the relationship between aesthetic properties (e.g. line, style, and composition) and the expressive quality of each self-portrait.
  3. Have students draw a self-portrait.

Day Two

  1. Discuss the content of Käthe Kollwitz' work, her message, her talent, and her aesthetics. [e.g. The style of an artwork, and the way that a subject is portrayed can strengthen the communication of an artist's meaning].
  2. Explore how Käthe Kollwitz addressed the events taking place in the world around her. Consider how she used her art to express her feelings and beliefs. Her most famous poster, "Never Again War!" depicts a single figure with one arm outstretched in a posture of protest, and her words form a backdrop of revolt against current events.
  3. Discuss the images of the human figure that Käthe Kollwitz used in this poster and in other works. Did she oversimplify or exaggerate these images, their features, proportions? What would be the purpose in doing so?
  4. Compare Kollwitz' work with Gela Seksztajn (1907-1942) Self-Portrait. "Seksztajn lived and painted in the Warsaw ghetto. In her will, which was preserved along with her watercolors in the underground archives of the Warsaw ghetto, she wrote, '...I am now standing at the boundary between life and death. I already know for certain that I must die and that is why I want to bid farewell to my friends and to my work. Farewell, comrades and friends. Jews! Do everything that such a tragedy will never be repeated!' She died in Treblinka in August 1942."

Day Three
Discuss and demonstrate simple woodcut methods to the class.

  1. Discuss ways that different printmaking media, such as lithography, linoleum and woodcuts, are suited to different stylistic approaches, and how the visual characteristics of these materials and styles suggest different moods or feelings. Ask students if they think printmaking is a good technique for Käthe Kollwitz and why? Artists whose work is based on a desire to communicate their views often use imagery and stylistic approaches that can be clearly understood by a wider audience. These artists often work in printmaking or other forms of popular media that are easily reproduced].
  2. Emphasize the importance of safety when working with these tools: they are very sharp!
  3. Demonstrate the correct method of cutting, where to place the tool to begin a cut and end it, and where their other hand needs to be! [below the cutting range]!
  4. Describe and demonstrate how each tool is used and the pattern or groove it creates.
  5. Demonstrate a simple woodcut for the class.
  6. Have students get their blocks of wood and label them with their names.
  7. Brainstorm with the class about interesting subjects that would work well in a woodcut, which would depict some form of protest against Naziism and the Holocaust atrocities. Write the list on the board.
  8. Have magazines and other reference materials for the class to use for ideas to assist in their creativity.
  9. Once a student has decided on a design, have him/her sketch it on a sketch pad approximately equal to the size of their woodblock.
  10. Instruct students how to transfer the pattern or design to their block of wood using graphite or carbon paper.

Day Four

  1. Discuss how students' choices of materials and styles reinforce the meaning of their work.
  2. Have students complete their transfers onto their woodblocks.
  3. Redemonstrate the use of the cutting tools and reiterate the safety issue.
  4. Have students begin cutting their blocks.

Day Five

  1. Continue cutting woodblocks

Day Six

  1. Demonstrate the use of printer's ink, brayers, and the block printing press (if available). If no printing press is available, demonstrate the hand-printing method.
  2. Work closely with each student.
  3. Make sure that they understand how to print.

Day Seven

  1. Display students' finished prints for a class critique.
  2. Explain what an artwork critique involves.
  3. Discuss the palette, design, and technique used.
  4. What emotions are referenced?
  5. Offer positive input and constructive criticism.

The quality of the student's work can be assessed by :

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

Timeline People Arts Activities Resources