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German Expressionism

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About this work

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

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.

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

Metropolis (Grossstadt)

Date:
1917
Medium:
Oil on board
Dimensions:
26 3/4 x 18 3/4" (68 x 47.6 cm)
Paper:
Board.
Credit Line:
Purchase
Copyright:
© 2014 Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
MoMA Number:
136.1946
Themes:
City Life, Sex
Techniques:
Drawing

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