The faces of greed, and the faces of the victims of greed, that
Grosz had drawn 80 years ago, I realized, are the faces I see around me in 21st century
America. The faces of SUV drivers, and the faces of the homeless around whom SUV drivers
Who Was George Grosz?
Rewards can be big for artists of the status quo. Play your creative cards right and you
can even be an artist billionaire. How?
Picasso is the role-model here. Its OK to be a little bit critical of the
social-economic order. A good move is to do one big work attacking obvious brutality (the
much-overrated "Guernica," for example), which makes your name as "an
artist of conscience." You can then profitably continue your career of toadying
reflections of the way things are.
George Grosz (1893-1959) was one of the few artists in the 20th century who dared to
attempt a lifelong critique.
Though a painter, his best work was in ink: page after page of frank sketches
of the terrible disparities and suffering produced by early 20th century capitalism.
In Weimar Germany. In pre-Hitler Germany, his drawings were repeatedly attacked, censored,
confiscated, and destroyed. One of the first acts of the Nazis after Hitler came to
power in 1933 was to search Groszs Berlin studio and confiscate the drawings and
Grosz had seen what was coming and had fled to America just before the Nazi takeover.
He remained in the United States, becoming a citizen in 1938.
The Nazis solidified his international reputation by making him part of the
famous "entartete Kunst" (degenerate art) exhibit in 1937. In 1941 the Museum of
Modern Art mounted a retrospective.
Toward the end of his life, in the 1950s, he returned to Germany, and in fact had moved
back to Berlin only a few days before his death in 1959.
Here then a sampling of this largely forgotten artist who was in fact a camera but more
than an ordinary camera. For he saw beneath the surface and drew pictures of the soul.
Note: Some of the drawings are sexually explicit. Most we have reduced in size for
monitor-viewing, but a few we kept large. This requires some scrolling about but makes
visible Grosz's extraordinary pen-strokes. Grosz did not apply titles to his work. We have
used our own titles for ease of reference.