Teaching as Empowerment II: Käthe Kollwitz and her student Elisabeth Voigt

« Art School Certificate of Elisabeth Voigt by Käthe Kollwitz »

Academy of Arts, Berlin, Archive of the Prussian Academy of Arts (1696-1955), Signature: PrAdK 1142, page: 22

“Her effort especially with the medium woodcut corresponds to her extraordinary talent and her thorough way of studying”, Kollwitz states in the art school certificate of Elisabeth Voigt. This document of 1935 is part of the Archive of the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. For several years, Elisabeth Voigt was a student of Käthe Kollwitz at the Prussian Academy of Arts, as the document reveals. As well as in the case of Sella Hasse, which I discussed in the first part of my essay series, Käthe Kollwitz’s mentoring and teaching had also a lasting effect on her student Elisabeth Voigt.

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Teaching as Empowerment I: Käthe Kollwitz and Her Student Sella Hasse

“Encounter with Käthe Kollwitz” by Sella Hasse
Academy of Arts, Berlin, Sella Hasse – Partial Estate, Signature: Hasse-Sella 12

Käthe Kollwitz, one of the most prominent female artists in Germany, spend almost ten years working as a teacher in two renowned art schools. Even though she was insecure about her teaching assignments, her work as a teacher especially empowered her female students. Two documents from the Archive of the Academy of Arts in Berlin that provide the evidence of Kollwitz’s teaching will function as a starting point to approach this topic of female empowerment through teaching.

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« Transmission and Gender: Women artists as teachers in the XXth century » Conference/ Call for contributions

Throughout the twentieth century, European schools of art and design have been subject to successive waves of criticism, reform and reinvention. The traditional system based on patterns of validation and career networks, as well as on a strict value scale, was rendered more or less obsolete by the artistic and social revolutions of the first avant-gardes. Having lost one of its key raisons d’être, traditional art education has since been constantly re-evaluated. Ongoing attempts have been made to make teaching more relevant, in particular through an increasing openness to the contemporary. The methods, techniques and even attitudes passed on in the schools have been constantly adapted and updated, far from the putative ‘objectivity’ that had been long been promoted in the Academies. Numerous models have been constructed and tested in Europe and around the world, such as those of the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, CalArts, the Ulm School, the Freie Internationale Universität, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and La Cambre, or more recently Le Fresnoy, along with those of various independent and ephemeral summer schools. With this turn towards the contemporary, art education has become more complex across the board. The circulation of students, artists and more generally of forms and ideas has contributed, above and beyond different national contexts, to a global transformation of artistic education.

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