1897 – 1964
Born in 1897 and raised in a small farming village in Eastern Germany called Gross Lubars, Margarete Bittkow struck out for the big city as a teenager and never looked back. Little is known about her early life, other than that she managed to fully support herself in the city of Weimar and cultivated her artistic interests. In 1919, at the age of twenty-two, Margarete was accepted as one of one hundred and fifty students to be admitted to the first class at the new and revolutionary Bauhaus school. She excelled in all of her classes, and as shown by her works prior to the Bauhaus, she was particularly drawn to woodblock printing and painting.
In 1920, she met her future husband, Wilhelm Koehler, who worked at
the State Art Museum and frequently exhibited works by Bauhaus masters and
students. After her graduation from the Bauhaus, Margarete Koehler-Bittkow
began slowly building a name for herself in Germany. However, as the Nazi
Party was gaining power in 1930, modern artists and their supporters became
persecuted all over Germany, and the Koehlers decided that they had to flee
the country. They moved with their two young sons to the Boston area in 1934
when Wilhelm was offered a full-time professorship at Harvard University.
Finding herself alienated and estranged in America, Margarete was soon relieved as many of her colleagues from the Bauhaus began emigrating as well, seeking safe-haven from the Nazi clampdown on artists and intelligentsia. She found herself entertaining large groups of exiled German artists at her home in Belmont, Massachusetts for days on end. The Klees, Feiningers and Albers moved to the Boston area as well, and they formed a strong bond as their children grew up together. In this circle of more well-known artists, Margarete was considered an equal, although her name is comparatively obscure. She had several shows in the Boston area at highly prestigious galleries in the 1940s and 1950s; however, she had a difficult time breaking out of her marginal status and into the limelight of an American art market. Margarete was a determined woman, though shy and not especially focused on public recognition. She focused all of her energy on the creative process as she lost herself in the intricacies of a landscape and its representation on paper; as she worked, the world stood still for her. She has a huge catalogue of work, as she continued painting and printing up until the time of her death in 1964.