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German Expressionism

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George Grosz

American, born Germany. 1893–1959

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Painter, draftsman, printmaker known for pointed political satire and social criticism. Early work, from about 1914 to 1917, shows influence of Expressionism and Futurism, as well as caricature. Volunteered for war in 1914; discharged in 1915 after a sinus operation. Recalled in January 1917; suffered nervous breakdown, declared unfit for military service. In 1916 adopted American spelling of his first name and de-Germanized his last name. Joined Communist Party in 1918, although became disillusioned after 1922 trip to Soviet Union. Experience of war fueled aversion for German militarism and philistinism. As member of Berlin Dada from 1918 to 1920, created mordantly satirical collages. In 1920s style became more naturalistic in caustic, caricatured studies of corrupt officers, war profiteers, exploitative industrialists, and prostitutes.

Most of his prints were photolithographs after drawings; was uninterested in printmaking techniques, but wanted work distributed to large audiences. Published eight portfolios, fifteen illustrated books, and about 120 single prints, many with Malik-Verlag between 1917 and 1928. Ran afoul of censorship laws three times in 1920s with his print portfolios, including God with Us, which was seized from First International Dada Fair in 1920.

Emigrated to New York in 1933. Declared an “enemy of the state” by Nazis, who confiscated his works in German museums; some destroyed. One month before his death in 1959, returned to Berlin.

Selected Bibliography

Dückers, Alexander. George Grosz: Das graphische Werk/The Graphic Work. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1996.

Jentsch, Ralph. George Grosz: Berlin–New York. Milan: Skira, 2008.

George Grosz: The Berlin Years. Exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Milan: Electa, 1997.

Lewis, Beth Irwin. George Grosz: Art and Politics in the Weimar Republic. Rev. ed. Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Heather Hess

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