George Grosz. Metropolis (Grossstadt). 1917

George Grosz

Metropolis (Grossstadt)


Oil on board
26 3/4 x 18 3/4" (68 x 47.6 cm)
Object number
© 2016 Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
George Grosz has 205 works online.
There are 14,212 drawings online.

Painted after his nervous breakdown and subsequent release from the German army, George Grosz's Großstadt (Metropolis) presents the city as a place that is as hellish as the battlefield. Bathed in shades of fiery red, flame blue, and rich purple, buildings topple and streets buckle. Tilted on a diagonal, the composition conveys the social upheavals of wartime. Multiple perspectives merge to create a disorienting space and collapse distinctions between inside and outside. Grosz shows simultaneously a café's exterior signage and facade and its interior, which is reduced to a chair and table with bottles and an empty glass.

Moral order has broken down as well. Grosz's zig-zag composition plots a tour through the city's debauchery. A properly dressed man lecherously eyes the naked body of an upside-down woman. Wearing little more than stockings and a shirt that bares her breasts, a streetwalker presses her hand into the crotch of a passing man. Grosz explored such potent combinations of sex, violence, and revolution throughout his career.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
The artist; acquired by Sally Falk (1888-1962), Mannheim, 1918 [1]; sold to Rudolf Pfrunder, Zurich, January 6, 1919 [2]; sold to J. B. Neumann (1887-1961), Berlin, October 1919 [3]. Wilhelm Landmann [William Landman] (1891-1986), Mannheim/Amsterdam/Toronto, by 1939 [4]; sold to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 24, 1946.
[1] Roland Dorn et al., Stiftung und Sammlung Sally Falk, Mannheim: Städtische Kunsthalle, 1994, p. 136.
[2] Ibid., p. 162. On deposit at the Kunsthalle Mannheim since May 1918 (title: Café).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Date of acquisition unknown. On loan from Landmann to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, from 1939-1946. See Gregor Langfeld, Duitse kunst in Nederland: 1919-1964, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2004, p. 164.

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