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George Grosz (American, born Germany. 1893–1959)

.a (recto): Circe .b (verso): Untitled

Date:
1927
Medium:
.a (recto): Watercolor and ink on paper; .b (verso): Ink on paper
Dimensions:
25 7/8 x 19 1/8" (65.7 x 48.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bareiss and an anonymous donor (by exchange)
MoMA Number:
73.1981.a-b
Copyright:
© 2014 Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project,

German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Reprising a theme he had often explored before, in this watercolor George Grosz shows that beneath their well-dressed and civilized exteriors, men are nothing but pigs. Grosz used the classical myth of Circe, the enchantress who transformed Odysseus's overindulgent men into swine, to attack the ongoing economic disparities of Weimar society. Grosz heightens this satire by rendering the male figure's exaggerated porcine features as meticulously as the exterior trappings of wealth and social standing. Wearing a well-tailored suit with a fresh shirt, perfectly knotted tie, and pristine shoe soles that seem to have barely touched the dirty city streets, this character wants for nothing and can afford everything. He sits across a café table from a prostitute, naked except for a few alluring accessories that her body had financed. The soft wash of color provides a further contrast to the biting social commentary.

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