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George Grosz

Dada, Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit

(Berlin, 1893 -Berlin, 1959)

George Grosz

Georg Grosz entered in School of Beaux-Arts in Dresde at the age of sixteen, then he went to Art Decorative School in Berlin. In 1913, he spent a few months in Paris where he saw recent cubist artwork but this movement kept a superficial influence, only visible in the stylistic appearance.

Even if he started to paint before 1914, this was already by his drawings that he expresses himself liberally. He made a lot of comic drawings for satiric publications as Lustige Blatter, Ulk and Simplicissimus. He became friendly with brothers John Heartfield and Wieland Hezfiels who created a little communist book house and they published in 1917 his lithographs. In 1918, he joined, with the two brothers, Dada Movement, of which they accentuated the political character against the Germany of Guillaume II. At this time, he considerate that the political action in his aggressive drawings is more urgent that the plastically concern. He participated as illustrator in the majority of Dada publications.

Not having abandoned the painting, he painted in 1917 – 1918 one of the most important pieces: Funerals of poet Oscar Panizza in which the futurism influence is obvious in the dynamic use of simultaneous plans.This futurism influence is also visible in his drawings of the same time. His preoccupations to critic the society and his politics action nearly nihilist don’t prevent him to research new plastic expressions means, as photomontage.

In 1923, he published a collection of drawings : Ecce Homo, immediately collectd and destroyed by the police in Berlin bookstores. In this collection, he denunciate sadism, cynicism, debauchery of decadent bourgeoisie of Germany after the war. After an important trial that forced him to destruct thirty paintings, he sheltered in Paris in 1924. In 1932, he was called to teach in the Art Student’s League of New York where he settled and took American nationality.

In 1920, with Hausmann and Heartfield, he was one of the organizers of the first International Dada Fair in Berlin and was, with Otto Dix, noticed by the political impact in his works. In 1945, he obtained the Carnegie’s second prize. Numerous exhibitions were organised, including in 1975 in Florence, 1976 in Paris and 1995 at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. 

In his paintings from 1920, circa the end of Dada Group, he progressed towards an art more and more realistic, especially in the painting Grey Day in 1921. In 1925, he approached the Neue Sachlichkeit Group (New Objectivity) with Otto Dix. This movement was in reaction against the subjectivity and expressionism for an objective art. Grosz, with a very expressionist style, will give this inflexion to the movement.

If we find calming in his American period – with romantic and idyllic expressions – the satire against the materialism of middle classes stays the dominant constant in apocalyptic visions, as in the series Fish-Men.

He came back in Germany few times before dying, completing to paint and draw his modern version of the Macabre Dance of the 20th Century, of which he was only concern by damned soul et their condemnations. 

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