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The Human Cost of War: The Art of Kathe Kollwitz

The Grieving Parents Memorial by Kathe Kolwitz

(The Grieving Parents memorial by Kathe Kollwitz)

Lesson Plan

Grade Level:

9th grade 


one to two class periods, plus homework

Content Standard:

History: 20th Century Conflict: Analyze the causes and effects of WWI with emphasis on Nationalism.

Primary Sources: 


Students will look at an artist whose work made a difference in the way people looked at war: Kathe Kollwitz. Students will be asked to share what they see in examples of Kollwitz’s works.  
The great artist Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that let’s us see the truth.”  Ask students to consider what they think he meant by that?
In a diary entry 1/4/1920, Kollwitz said- “I felt that I have no right to withdraw from the responsibility of being an advocate. It is my duty to voice the sufferings of people, the sufferings that never end and are as big as mountains.” She believed in the common people and felt their leaders should listen to them.

Instructional Steps:

Show PowerPoint Part I to students to introduce them to Kollwitz’s life and work.  
Show students one image from PowerPoint Part II, and together complete an Art Analysis Worksheet
Divide students into groups, and give each group a work of art from the PowerPoint. Have each group complete an Art Analysis Worksheet for their artwork.
As a class, show the images from the PowerPoint Part II, with each student group discussing their key findings based on their analysis. 
Distribute lesson based on Kollwitz’s diary (© Prentice-Hall, Inc.).
Questions 1-3 will be discussed as a class to make sure students understand what Kollwitz was saying.  
Question 4 will be given as a writing assignment to be completed in class if time permits, if not, completed work will be due the next day.
Assessment: evaluate the Art Analysis Worksheets and the written responses

Materials needed by teacher:

  • Computer with projector
  • PowerPoint presentations: Part I and Part II on Kollwitz
  • Art Analysis Worksheet
  • Kollwitz Diary Lesson

Materials needed by students:

  • something to write with

Additional Resources:

Here is a link to information about using Art as a Primary Source.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum has an educational program called “To See is to Think: Visual Literacy.” It includes the Art Analysis Worksheet reproduced here, and also many other suggested questions to get students to think about what they see. It also has definitions of art terms and additional activities.
More on Kathe Kollwitz:
Created by Catherine Means, Licking Heights High School, Ohio.