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Expressionist Depictions of War

German Expressionists, many of whom fought in World War I, depicted the shattering experience of war.


George Grosz
(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.

A war fought from 1914 to 1918, in which Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the United States, and other allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria.

A setting for or a part of a story or narrative.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.