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On collecting Käthe Kollwitz

June 4th, 2018

A Kathe Kollwitz charcoal drawing of a baby resting on a woman's lap, her hands folded next to it.

Käthe Kollwitz, Sleeping Child in the Lap of her Mother. Charcoal and wash with graphite on wove paper. 34.4 x 45.2 cm. Promised Gift of Dr. Brian McCrindle.

In 2015, Dr. Brian McCrindle, a cardiologist and researcher at The Hospital for Sick Children, made an extraordinary donation to the AGO of 170 prints, drawings and sculptures by the German artist Käthe Kollwitz.

What motivated Dr. McCrindle to build and then donate this collection? On Wednesday, June 6 at 7 pm in the Marvin Gelber Print & Drawing Study Centre, Dr. McCrindle joins Brenda Rix, curator of Käthe Kollwitz: Art and Life to discuss the importance of Kollwitz’s art. Tickets are still available, but seating is limited. Book your tickets now.

Dr. Brian McCrindle stands next to a Kathe Kollwitz piece.

Dr. Brian McCrindle standing in the Esther & Arthur Gelber Treasury beside Käthe Kollwitz’s Woman with Children Going to Their Death, a woodcut from 1923. The work is one of the 170 that Dr. McCrindle donated to the AGO in 2015.

We caught up with Dr. McCrindle before the exhibition opened to find out more about the man behind this remarkable gift and to uncover the source of his Kollwitz fascination.

AGO: What about Kollwitz’s work attracts you?
Brian: I can sum it up in one word – compassion. Her life and her work are all about compassion. As a physician at SickKids, compassion is a necessary and important component of providing care to children and families.

AGO: How were you introduced to her work? 
Brian: When I was doing my pediatrics and cardiology training in Baltimore, I was allowed to take evening studies courses for free, so I signed up for an art history course. Kollwitz was briefly covered, and I was captivated by the expression and passion in her Peasant War etching series. Later in 1992, an amazing exhibition of her work was held at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., based on loans from the most important private Kollwitz collector, Richard Simms. I went to that exhibition three times, and eventually I visited Dr. Simms who gave me lots of great advice and encouragement.

AGO: Why did you decide to give these works to the AGO?
Brian: Kollwitz believed that her art should have a purpose, and that it needed to be seen and shared with people. Her art speaks to the never-ending need for compassion in the world. It was not my place to keep this collection to myself. I nurtured it until it grew to give a complete picture of this important humanitarian. I know the AGO will be a good caretaker and will honour her purpose.

AGO: Do you have a favourite Kollwitz work?
Brian: That’s a bit like asking if you have a favourite child.

Dr. McCrindle’s passion for the arts does not stop at Kollwitz. He has established The Brian McCrindle and Kerry Mader Art for Humanity Fund, a fund dedicated to the acquisition of prints and drawings that fall within the guidelines of ‘art for humanity’ – art that expresses the concepts of compassion, understanding, and tolerance; and the dignity of humankind.

Käthe Kollwitz: Art and Life is the first of three exhibitions celebrating the artist, her work and this incredible gift, planned for 2018 – 2019. The exhibition is included in General Admission and AGO Members see our collection for free. Stay tuned for more details about Käthe Kollwitz: Voice of the People, opening October 13, 2018.

Don’t miss Dr. McCrindle’s upcoming talk with curator Brenda Rix on Wednesday June 6. Book your tickets now.

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