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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Grosz
George Grosz in 1921
Birth name Georg Ehrenfried Groß
Born July 26, 1893(1893-07-26)
Berlin, Germany
Died July 6, 1959 (aged 65)
Berlin, Germany
Nationality German
Field Painting, drawing
Training Dresden Academy
Movement Dada, New Objectivity
Works The Funeral (Dedicated to Oscar Panizza)

George Grosz (July 26, 1893 – July 6, 1959) was a German artist known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. He was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group during the Weimar Republic before he emigrated to the United States in 1933.



Republican Automatons, 1920, in the collection of MOMA New York

George Grosz was born Georg Ehrenfried Groß in Berlin, Germany but changed his name in 1916 out of a romantic enthusiasm for America[1] that originated in his early reading of the books of James Fenimore Cooper, Bret Harte and Karl May, and which he retained for the rest of his life.[2] (His artist friend and collaborator Helmut Herzfeld changed his name to John Heartfield at the same time.)

Grosz grew up in the Pomeranian town of Stolp,[3] where his mother became the keeper of the local Hussar's Officers' mess after his father died in 1901.[4][5] In 1914 Grosz volunteered for military service; like many other artists, he embraced the first world war as "the war to end all wars", but he was quickly disillusioned and was given a discharge after hospitalization in 1915. In January 1917 he was drafted for service, but in May he was discharged as permanently unfit.[6]

Grosz was arrested during the Spartakus uprising in January 1919, but escaped using fake identification documents; he joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the same year. In 1921 Grosz was accused of insulting the army, which resulted in a 300 German Mark fine and the destruction of the collection Gott mit uns ("God with us"), a satire on German society. Grosz left the KPD in 1922 after having spent five months in Russia and meeting Lenin and Trotsky, because of his antagonism to any form of dictatorial authority.

Bitterly anti-Nazi, Grosz left Germany in 1932, a year before Hitler came to power. In the summer of 1932, he was invited to teach at the Art Students League of New York, where he would teach intermittently until 1955. Grosz became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1938, and made his home in Bayside, New York.

In America, Grosz determined to make a clean break with his past, and changed his style and subject matter.[7] He continued to exhibit regularly, and in 1946 he published his autobiography, A Little Yes and a Big No. In the 1950s he opened a private art school at his home and also worked as Artist in Residence at the Des Moines Art Center. Grosz was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1954. Though he had US citizenship, he resolved to return to Berlin, where he died on July 6, 1959 from the effects of falling down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking.[8]

In 1960, Grosz was the subject of the Oscar-nominated short film George Grosz' Interregnum. In 2002, actor Kevin McKidd portrayed Grosz in a supporting role as an eager artist seeking exposure in a fictional film entitled Max, regarding Adolf Hitler's youth.


Made in Germany (German: Den macht uns keiner nach), by George Grosz, drawn in pen 1919, photo-lithograph published 1920 in the portfolio God with us (German: Gott mit Uns). Sheet 48.3 x 39.1 cm. In the collection of the MOMA

Although Grosz made his first oil paintings in 1912 while still a student,[9] his earliest oils that can be identified today date from 1916.[10] By 1914, Grosz worked in a style influenced by Expressionism and Futurism, as well as by popular illustration, graffiti, and children's drawings.[11] Sharply outlined forms are often treated as if transparent. The City (1916–17) was the first of his many paintings of the modern urban scene.[12] Other examples include the apocalyptic Explosion (1917), Metropolis (1917), and The Funeral, a 1918 painting depicting a mad funeral procession.

In his drawings, usually in pen and ink which he sometimes developed further with watercolor, Grosz did much to create the image most have of Berlin and the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Corpulent businessmen, wounded soldiers, prostitutes, sex crimes and orgies were his great subjects. His draftsmanship was excellent although the works he is best known for adopt a deliberately crude form of caricature. His oeuvre includes a few absurdist works, such as Remember Uncle August the Unhappy Inventor which has buttons sewn on it,[13] and also includes a number of erotic artworks.[14]

After his emigration to the USA in 1933, Grosz "sharply rejected [his] previous work, and caricature in general."[15] In place of his earlier corrosive vision of the city, he now painted conventional nudes and many landscape watercolors. More acerbic works, such as Cain, or Hitler in Hell (1944), were the exception. In his autobiography, he wrote: "A great deal that had become frozen within me in Germany melted here in America and I rediscovered my old yearning for painting. I carefully and deliberately destroyed a part of my past."[16] Although a softening of his style had been apparent since the late 1920s, Grosz's work turned toward a sentimental romanticism in America, a change generally seen as a decline.[17]


  • 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
  • My aim is to be understood by everyone. I reject the 'depth' that people demand nowadays, into which you can never descend without a diving bell crammed with cabbalistic bullshit and intellectual metaphysics. This expressionistic anarchy has got to stop... A day will come when the artist will no longer be this bohemian, puffed-up anarchist but a healthy man working in clarity within a collectivist society. -Grosz

See also


  1. ^ Sabarsky 1985, p.250.
  2. ^ Schmied 1978, p.29.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Sabarsky 1985, p. 26. According to Sabarsky, no records can be found to substantiate the version of events described by Grosz in his autobiography, i.e., that he was accused of desertion and narrowly avoided execution.
  7. ^ Grosz 1946, pp. 301–302.
  8. ^ Kranzfelder 2005, p. 90-93.
  9. ^ Kranzfelder 2005, p. 92.
  10. ^ Kranzfelder 2005, p. 21.
  11. ^ Kranzfelder 2005, p. 15.
  12. ^ Kranzfelder 2005, p. 22.
  13. ^ "Remember Uncle August the Unhappy Inventor". Retrieved 2008-04-01.  
  14. ^ "George Grosz erotic artwork". AMEA/World Museum of Erotic Art. Retrieved 2008-04-02.  
  15. ^ Grosz 1946, p. 276.
  16. ^ Grosz 1946, p. 270.
  17. ^ Michalsky 1994, pp. 35-36.


  • Grosz, George (1946). A Little Yes and a Big No. New York: The Dial Press.
  • Kranzfelder, Ivo (2005). George Grosz. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen. ISBN 3-8228-0891-1
  • Michalski, Sergiusz (1994). New Objectivity. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen. ISBN 3-8228-9650-0
  • Sabarsky, Serge, editor (1985). George Grosz: The Berlin Years. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-0668-5
  • Schmied, Wieland (1978). Neue Sachlichkeit and German Realism of the Twenties. London: Arts Council of Great Britain. ISBN 0-7287-0184-7

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

George Ehrenfried Grosz (26 July 18936 July 1959) was a German artist, known for his Dadaist and anti-Nazi works.


  • I see the future development of painting taking place in workshops... not in any holy temple of the arts.
    • Quoted in William Bolcom, "The End of the Mannerist Century," from The Pleasure of Modernist Music, ed. Arved Ashby (2004, ISBN 1580461433)


  • I've been trying to sell my soul to the devil for 30 years, and he hasn't even come around to make me a price!
    • In response to an accusation of selling out in his later work

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