George Grosz Metropolis (Grossstadt) 1917

  • Not on view

George Grosz was released from the army after suffering a nervous breakdown in 1917, the same year that he painted Metropolis. The war had left a mark, and Grosz saw the city streets of Germany as a battlefield. “My drawings,” he wrote, “expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment….”

Grosz’s Metropolis is filled with violence and vice, awash in a deep blood red. The angled buildings create a claustrophobic, maze-like trap. Dapper men with skull-like faces leer vacantly as a nude woman struts and a headless female figure tumbles through space. All the figures appear to float on air. The distinctions between interior and exterior space fall away, as we view the signage on the outside of a night café simultaneous with a glass and wine bottles on an indoor tabletop. “I drew and painted from a spirit of contradiction,” Grosz stated, “and attempted in my work to convince the world that this world is ugly, sick and mendacious.”

Oil on board
26 3/4 x 18 3/4" (68 x 47.6 cm)
Object number
© 2023 Estate of George Grosz
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

The artist; acquired by Sally Falk (1888-1962), Mannheim, 1918 [1]; sold to Rudolf Pfrunder, Zurich, January 6, 1919 [2]; sold to J. B. Neumann (1887-1961), Berlin, October 1919 [3]. Wilhelm Landmann [William Landman] (1891-1986), Mannheim/Amsterdam/Toronto, by 1939 [4]; sold to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 24, 1946.

[1] Roland Dorn et al., Stiftung und Sammlung Sally Falk, Mannheim: Städtische Kunsthalle, 1994, p. 136.
[2] Ibid., p. 162. On deposit at the Kunsthalle Mannheim since May 1918 (title: Café).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Date of acquisition unknown. On loan from Landmann to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, from 1939-1946. See Gregor Langfeld, Duitse kunst in Nederland: 1919-1964, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2004, p. 164.

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