George Grosz, born in 1893, was not a politically motivated artist before WW1. However, his war experiences of death and destruction on the battlefield deeply effected him resulting in a psychological breakdown (Llosa). These war experiences dramatically changed his art. He hated war, German militarism and used the experiences of death and destruction to inspire his paintings. (MOMA) Grosz painted many characters as fat, ugly and immoral to reflect the contradictions seen in the Weimar society around him. MOMA suggests that the war had turned Grosz into a misanthropist yet at the same time an idealist. ‘I drew and painted from a spirit of contradiction, and attempted in my work to convince the world that this world is ugly, sick and mendacious (false/lying)’ (Kunstblatt, 1924).

His art revealed the sordidness of German city-life and the lost souls inhabiting it. His art exposed the corruption, the confusion and the different levels of society from prostitutes to vetrans of the war- crippled and maimed, to the grossly rich. He showed a ruined, corrupt world often through the images of a hell-like city.  His art was highly critical of those who became rich while others starved or were ignored. He criticized the politicians and industrialists and ridiculed those who he felt had dragged his country into a devastating war.

Grosz and Heartfield became friends and like Heartfield (see previous post), Grosz changed his first name into the English form as a protest against the right-wing nationalism he saw around him. In 1918, he joined the German Communist Party. He was prosecuted by the Nazis for insulting the army and blasphemy. His art, like that of Heartfield, Klee, Beckman and other artists,  touched a raw nerve with the Nazis who decalred him a ‘degenerate artist’ and therefore an enemy of the state. His work was confiscated from German museums and some destroyed. In 1933 he settled in the United States only returning to Germany in 1958, one year before his death.

Grosz- Metropolis, 1916-17

Grosz- Metropolis, 1916-17, from Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid

Go to Mueso Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid to view , read and listen to a commentary on Grosz’s Metropolis

Click here to zoom in on the image and explore it in depth: zoom image of Metropolis

Read: Facing History George Grosz


Tate Modern: Llosa You Nourish Yourself with Everything You Hate

MOMA Collection

ABC Gallery