Thursday, April 22, 2010

George Grosz (1893 - 1959)

George Grosz (1893-1959) was born in Berlin, Germany. He volunteered to fight in World War I, called "the war to end all wars," but was discharged in 1917. He had become quite disillusioned with war, as had a group of young German artists he would soon join.

After the end of World War I, there was civil unrest in Germany, fighting between different groups trying to gain political power. Grosz fought in what was called the Spartakus uprising in 1919, and joined the communist Party. He left the CP within a few years, disillusioned with its dictatorial style of politics.

Grosz was one of many young artists in the teen years of the early 1900s whose art was very critical of modern life. He became known for his pictures of post-World-War-I Berlin, under the rule of the Weimar Republic, and his perception of urban life at that time. Many young Germans were disgusted with the war and the general decadence they saw in their country.

Grosz depicted fat (rich) businessmen, in contrast with the injured or wounded soldiers returning from the war, prostitutes, and wild sexuality.

After he moved to the U.S., Grosz changed his style and painted more conventional nudes, landscapes, and calmer visions. He claimed that part of his self had been frozen in Germany, but was renewed after he came to the U.S. His later works never gained the same status as his post-war pieces.

A deeply disillusioned man, he saw humanity as essentially bestial and the city of Berlin as a sink of depravity and deprivation, its streets crowded with unprincipled profiteers, prostitutes, war-crippled dregs and a variety of perverts. A communist, his feeling of social outrage stimulated him to produce the most biting drawings and paintings. -Trewin Copplestone

In Grosz's Germany, everything and everybody is for sale. All human transactions, except for the class solidarity of the workers, are poisoned. The world is owned by four breeds of pig: the capitalist, the officer, the priest and the hooker, whose other form is the sociable wife. He was one of the hanging judges of art. -Robert Hughes



  1. I first saw reproductions of Grosz's work while in High school. The impact was unforgettable. I had wit enough to percieve that it was not only Germany that was being portrayed, rather, it was the whole, sorry human condition.
    To dismiss Grosz as a political extremist misses the mark by a long shot. His politics were part of his art, with an extreme position being much more easily understood than any sophisticated subtlety.
    He was one of many sensitive souls driven to the edge of madness by the cruel conditions which humanity suffers.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anonymous poster.

    Yes, I like his work, but I'm not entirely sure why. It just reaches down and grabs me. I have a very strong reaction to his work, but I'm not sure why, or what to call it. Is it that it's all too familiar? The fat businessmen, the poor citizens, wounded soldiers, corrupt society. Different countries, eras, yet there's something so familiar in his work.

  3. Grosz' art is an expression that is hard to forget. Im still in High School and im doing a project on Grosz, all i can really think about is what this man must have felt towards the world during his time.

  4. Until recently, I thought of Grosz as the penman of bizarre sketches of decadence, but lately I've been looking at the incredible depth, color and manic energy of his work. Great stuff.

  5. I find these paintings creepy put something nicer on the website instead like dancing uniscorns or something. They are just tragic viewson war... what else? Take my advice and put up pictures of unicorns, sugar and spice and everything nice.