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  • The Satirical Art of George Grosz
  • Kris Somerville (bio)

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Figure 1.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. Circe, 1927. Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper. Photo Credit: The Museum of Modern Art/Art Resource, NY.

[End Page 89]


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Figure 2.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. The Street, 1933. Canvas. Photo Credit: Eric Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

Berlin artist George Grosz dressed with an air of art-school irony in a variety of costumes—a cowboy hat and spurs, a powdered face, rouged cheeks and lips and a padded, checkered jacket, or a rakish-looking Fedora and an American gangster-styled suit. But the role the young artist played most often was that of the dandified idler, with spats and walking stick, as [End Page 90]


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Figure 3.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. Before Sunrise, 1922. From the series "Ecco Homo," no. 15. Watercolor. Photo Credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY.

he joined fellow artists at Café des Westerns to gossip, debate, play chess and drink coffee and spiked lemonade. Grosz cared about his appearance and about clothing, but he also hoped that by flaunting his eccentricities he would attract the attention of the opinion-makers and journalists who likewise frequented his favorite haunt, renamed Café Megalomania in honor [End Page 91]


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Figure 4.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. Soiree (Evening party), 1921. From the series "Ecco Homo," no. 9. Watercolor. Photo Credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY.

of arty nonconformists like himself. Post–World War I Berlin was a place of ambition, energy and talent; to succeed there was the aspiration of every writer and artist. The youthful defiance of convention that prevailed in this [End Page 92] milieu prefigured the free, liberating spirit of Weimar society that would overcome the city in the 1920s.


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Figure 5.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. Daum Marries, 1920. Watercolor, pencil, pen, collage on cardboard. Photo Credit: Eric Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

In many ways, George Grosz was a young artist home from war—angry, energetic and ready to blast the establishment. In 1914, knowing that his conscription was imminent, he had enlisted in the army, but he was soon discharged with—depending on the source—either "brain fever" or a sinus infection. He returned to Berlin for a short time to write of the filth and idiocy of his experience. He described it as "walking through hell," a hell he [End Page 93]


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Figure 6.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. Twilight, 1922. From the series "Ecco Homo," no. 16. Photo Credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, NY.

would have to revisit in 1917, when all men, even those deemed previously unfit, were recalled to service. This time, he simply refused to follow orders. In his autobiography, he wrote that he was accused of desertion and was saved from execution by the art collector Harry Kessler. Records do not [End Page 94] exist, however, to support this story. He was, in fact, transferred to a mental institution until he could return to Berlin to resume his work.


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Figure 7.

Grosz, George (1893-1959) © Vaga, NY. Without title (nudes), 1919. Watercolor. Photo Credit: Eric Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

Grosz did not like the army. He vented his spleen in unflattering sketches of seamy officers. The army didn't like him either. In 1920, at the First International Dada Fair, the portfolio of his wartime line drawings—mostly of arrogant German officers and the mutilation and destruction they inflicted—was seized, and he was prosecuted for defaming the army's [End Page 95] reputation. He was fined three hundred marks. In 1923, he provoked the government again, resulting in the confiscation of fifty-two of the hundred lithographs published as Ecce Homo for allegedly pornographic portrayals of female nudes. This time he paid five hundred marks. In all, he endured three public trials for subversion, blasphemy and indecency, though he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 89-99
Launched on MUSE
2007-10-29
Open Access
No
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