German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse
March 27–July 11, 2011
Circe is the enchantress who, in Homer's Odyssey, turns Odysseus’s shipmates into pigs. It is one of many farcical caricatures of sexually available women and boorishly lewd men Grosz made during the 1910s and 1920s.
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.