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

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About this work

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

Shortly after his discharge from the German Army in May 1915, George Grosz began work on the images that appeared in 1917 in his first portfolio. The prints show his fascination with America and its promise of freedom, gleaned in part from James Fenimore Cooper's and Karl May's fanciful depictions of the American West. He also celebrates New York, capturing the city's energy through Expressionist spatial distortions and Futurist fracturing of the picture plane.

Grosz's images of Berlin, by contrast, take a mordantly realistic approach. Grosz highlights the misery of working-class life; smoking factories are never far from view. Dive bars, with their dubious pleasures, are the only source of solace from the cold and desolate streets. It is no better at home, in cheap apartment blocks, where scenes of murder, prostitution, and suicide play out.

The prints are photolithographs of drawings. Grosz showed little interest in exploring printmaking's technical and aesthetic possibilities. Instead, he exploited its reproducibility, printing large editions on a sliding scale: an inexpensive "popular" edition to reach mass audiences and a costly "luxury" edition, usually on better-quality paper. Grosz had no problems letting rich capitalists finance his attempts to bring about their demise.

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

Suburb (Vorstadt) from The First George Grosz Portfolio (Erste George Grosz-Mappe)

(1915-16, published 1916-17)
One from a portfolio of nine lithographs
composition (irreg.): 14 9/16 x 12 3/16" (37 x 31 cm); sheet: 19 3/4 x 15 3/8" (50.1 x 39 cm)
Beige, smooth, wove.
Verlag neue Jugend, Berlin, (Malik-Verlag)
Hermann Birkholz, Berlin
120 (including deluxe edition of 20 on imperial Japan paper issued in half-linen portfolio, signed and numbered 1-20 on the colophon; and regular edition of 100 on "japan" or "Bütten" paper issued in black paper wrapper, numbered 21-120 on the colophon: 100 [this ex.]); plus proofs on various papers outside the edition
Credit Line:
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
© 2016 Estate of George Grosz
Dückers MI, 6. Rifkind 950 6.
MoMA Number:
City Life

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