This portfolio focuses on the lives of Weimar Germany's forgotten citizens: the toiling proletariat and crippled veterans who enjoyed none of the glittering pleasures of the postwar metropolis. Grosz presents the monotonous lives of the workers sympathetically, reserving his usual scathing caricature for fat capitalists, petit-bourgeois philistines, and pompous army officers. Workers, war invalids, and impoverished mothers and widows go about their lives in tattered clothing with quiet dignity. Grosz humanizes the workers, carefully giving each a unique physiognomy and gait, even as they head en masse to the factory.
In Früh um 5 Uhr! (Dawn), Grosz contrasts emaciated workers with the overfed rich, who gorge themselves at other people's expense. A committed communist who saw his art as a weapon of class struggle, Grosz preferred the ease of making drawings that could then be reproduced mechanically. He nevertheless recognized the need for financial support from the wealthy classes he pilloried in his work. In addition to a cheap "trade union" edition, priced for a working-class budget, the publishing house Malik also produced several hundred copies of Im Schatten (In the shadows) in a costly, limited edition for the art market.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.