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George Grosz

Germany Born in: 1893
Translation in progress

George Grosz (July 26, 1893 – July 6, 1959)

was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group, known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. George Grosz was born Georg Ehrenfried Groß in Berlin, Germany but changed his name in 1916 out of a romantic enthusiasm for America that originated in his early reading of the books of James Fenimore Cooper, Bret Harte and Karl May, and which he retained for the rest of his life. (His artist friend and collaborator Helmut Herzfeld changed his name to John Heartfield at the same time).

In 1914 Grosz volunteered for military service; like many other artists, he embraced the first world war as "the war to end all wars", but he was quickly disillusioned and was given a discharge after hospitalization in 1915. In January 1917 he was drafted for service, but in May he was discharged as permanently unfit.

Grosz was arrested during the Spartakus uprising in January 1919, but escaped using fake identification documents; he joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the same year. In 1921 Grosz was accused of insulting the army, which resulted in a 300 German Mark fine and the destruction of the collection Gott mit uns ("God with us"), a satire on German society. Grosz left the KPD in 1922 after having spent five months in Russia and meeting Lenin and Trotsky, because of his antagonism to any form of dictatorial authority.

In his drawings, usually in pen and ink which he sometimes developed further with watercolor, Grosz did much to create the image most have of Berlin and the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Corpulent businessmen, wounded soldiers, prostitutes, sex crimes and orgies were his great subjects. His draftsmanship was excellent although the works he is best known for adopt a deliberately crude form of caricature. His oeuvre includes a few absurdist works, such as "Remember Uncle August the Happy Inventor" which has buttons sewn on it (see it here), and also includes erotica, such as these drawings in the World Museum of Erotic Art.

Bitterly anti-Nazi, Grosz left Germany in 1932 and was invited to teach at the Art Students League of New York in 1933, where he would teach intermittently until 1955. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1938. Although a softening of his style had been apparent since the late 1920s, Grosz's work turned toward a sentimental romanticism in America, a change generally seen as a decline.

He continued to exhibit regularly. He painted Cain, or Hitler in Hell (1944), showing the dead attacking Hitler in Hell, and in 1946 he published his autobiography, A Little Yes and a Big No. In the 1950s he opened a private art school at his home and also worked as Artist in Residence at the Des Moines Art Center. Grosz was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1954. Even though he had American citizenship, he resolved to return to Berlin in 1959 where he died on July 6 of that year from the effects of falling down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking.

In 1960, Grosz was the subject of the Oscar-nominated short film George Grosz' Interregnum.

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George Grosz, Without Results, Drawing

George Grosz

Without Results, 1925
25.6 x 20.7 x 0.1 inch

$35,609 $44,511

George Grosz, The Outpouring of The Holy Spirit, Drawing

George Grosz

The Outpouring of The Holy Spirit, 1927
21.7 x 17.3 x 0.1 inch

$35,609 $44,511

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