(American, born Germany. 1893–1959)
1917. Oil on composition board, 18 7/8 x 26 7/8" (47.8 x 68.2 cm)
George Grosz’s paintings, from both before and after World War I, depict German society in the throes of violent destruction. Grosz had a mental breakdown and was discharged from the army as “permanently unfit” the year he made this painting. Glass, bricks, and people fly through the air in a city rent by an apparent bomb attack. A bird’s-eye view shows chaos unfolding as buildings pinwheel around the center of impact. The composition is disorienting, but the color reverberates outward in vibrant and geometric plumes, lending structure and beauty to an otherwise riotous scene of destruction.
The arrangement of the elements within a work of art. The composition is the interplay between the subject, foreground, background, and other elements in the photograph.