George Grosz

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<i>Cape Cod</i>, 1936
Watercolor on paper
6 x 11 1/2 in. (15.2 x 29.2 cm)
Cape Cod, 1936
Watercolor on paper
6 x 11 1/2 in. (15.2 x 29.2 cm)

Artist Bio

George Grosz's (1893-1959, Berlin) work is best known for being critical of society. In 1915 he started jobbing as illustrator for several magazines to make a living and made him a name. His portrayal of metropolis life, red-light districts and the demimonde, set him equal to Otto Dix and as leading purveyor of the New Objectivity ("Neue Sachlichkeit"). His drawings depict objects and people in a realistic, sometimes markedly caricatured and frequently alienated context. Grosz repeatedly faces pornography and blasphemy charges due to the content of his drawings. After the NSDAP is put in power, Grosz emigrates to the US where he applies for US citizenship which is granted to him in 1938. In Germany his work is classified as degenerate art ("Entartete Kunst"), and 285 of his works are being confiscated from public collections. In 1940 the Museum of Modern Art in New York shows a retrospective of his work which later tours through the United States. In 1946, the AAA Gallery, New York hosts an exhibition titled A Piece of My World in a World without Peace. Later the Dallas Museum of Arts shows several works by Grosz titled Impressions of Dallas and also the Whitney Museum, New York shows retrospective works.
George Grosz dies on July 6, 1959 at the age of 66.


1893
26 July, Georg Ehrenfried Grosz born in Berlin, the son of Karl Ehrenfried Grosz and Marie Wilhelmine Luise Grosz, née Schultze.

1898
The family moves to Stolp, in rural Pomerania.

1901
After his father's death the previous year, Grosz moves with his family back to Berlin.

1902
Returns to Stolp. Reading James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer, develops a lifelong enthusiasm for America.

1905
Earliest known sketchbook with cowboys and Indians.

1908
Expelled from school after reciprocating in kind when he is slapped by a teacher. The school's drawing master encourages him to apply to the Königliche Kunstakademie (Royal Academy) in Dresden.

1910
Publication of his first drawing in Ulk, the satirical supplement of the Berliner Tageblatt.

1911
Receives the Honorary Commendation of the Königlich-Sächsische Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Saxon Academy of the Visual Arts) in Dresden.

1913
From August to November in Paris, where he studies life drawing at the Académie Filippo Colarossi, a private art school. Meets the French painter Jules Pascin, whose spontaneous style of drawing he admires. Back in Berlin, sees Italian Futurist and German Expressionist works in the "Ersten Deutschen Herbstsalon" (First German Autumn Salon) at Herwarth Walden's gallery Der Sturm.

1914
The Reichstag votes unanimously to declare war. Grosz volunteers for the Army.

1915
In February hospitalized with a severe sinus infection and in May released as unfit for service. Meets the publisher Wieland Herzfelde in Ludwig Meidner's studio.

1916
Officially anglicizes the spelling of his name to George Grosz. Regularly visits the Café des Westens, the gathering place in Berlin of the artistic avant-garde. Begins work on the painting "Metropolis." Meets Eva Peter, his future wife, a fellow student at the Berlin School of Arts and Crafts.

1917
Works with the German painter John Heartfield, Wieland Herzfelde's brother, on an animated propaganda film for the military. Publication by Malik-Verlag of "Erste George-Grosz Mappe" (First George-Grosz Portfolio).

1918
Exclusive contract with the Munich dealer Hans Goltz (who will represent Grosz until 1922). Makes Dada collages, some of them in collaboration with Heartfield. Grosz joins the Communist Party of Germany together with Erwin Piscator and the Herzfelde brothers. (He leaves the party in 1923, although he continues to attend meetings in the 1920s and contributes to the satirical Communist worker paper). Also joins the radical November Group.

1919
During the so-called Spartacus revolution soldiers force their way into Grosz's studio with a warrant for his arrest. He escapes using false identity papers and goes into hiding for several days.

1920
First solo show in Munich. In May marries Eva Peter. Helps organize and contributes to the "First International Dada-Fair" in Berlin, which results in a legal suit for criticism of the Army ("I consider any art pointless if it does not put itself at the disposal of a political struggle," he would later write in his autobiography). The trial ends in 1921 with a fine.

1921
Solo show at the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover. Publication of the collection of drawings Das Gesicht der herrschenden Klasse (The Face of the Ruling Class).

1922
Spends five months traveling in Russia with the Danish Communist writer Martin Andersen-Nexø. Meets Trotsky and Lenin. Growing disillusionment with Communism and the Soviet Union. Publication by Malik-Verlag of the portfolio Die Räuber (The Robbers).

1923
Publication of the portfolio and book Ecce Homo, from which thirty-four reproductions are confiscated. Grosz and the publisher Herzfelde are accused of pornography. The sensational trial ends in 1924 with a fine. Signs a contract with the dealer Alfred Flechtheim.

1924
Despite having left the Communist party the previous year, becomes chairman of Rote Gruppe (Red Group), an association of Communist artists. Travels with Eva to Paris.

1925
Takes up oil painting again after a hiatus of several years. Participates in the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) exhibition at the Kunsthalle Mannheim. Spends several months in France.

1926
Birth of first son, Peter Michael. Together with Max Pechstein, Erwin Piscator, Wilhelm Herzog, and Maximilian Harden, founds "Club 1926 e.V.", a club for politics, science, and art. Completes the satirical painting Stützen der Gesellschaft (Pillars of Society).

1927
Spends seven months on the French Riviera and develops a new style. Paints landscapes and still lifes in which he departs from the style of Neue Sachlichkeit.

1928
Seventeen drawings are published by Malik-Verlag in the portfolio Hintergrund (Background). Three of the drawings lead to a charge of blasphemy against Grosz and Herzfelde, which ends after many appeals only in 1931 with the defendants' acquittal. In September visits London.

1930
Birth of second son, Martin Oliver.

1931
Meets Otto Dix. For financial reasons, Flechtheim terminates his contract with Grosz.

1932
On April 26, Grosz receives a telegram inviting him to teach a summer course as a guest lecturer at The Art Students League in New York. He accepts to teach at the school, where he will do so intermittently until his return to Germany in 1959. Stays in New York from June to October. Together with the painter Maurice Sterne and the dealer Israel Ber Neumann opens the Sterne-Grosz Studio for the Art in Painting. He also becomes co-editor of the satirical magazine Americana. The New Yorker and Vanity Fair commission illustrations from him. Gets to know James Thurber, Erich Cohn, and George Gershwin. After he finishes teaching, he returns to Germany 6 October.

1933
With the Nazis coming to power, Grosz decides to leave Germany for good. On January 31, SA troops storm into Grosz's flat in Berlin. He and his wife have been in New York for two weeks. Their sons follow in October. In March Hitler is given dictatorial authority. That same month Grosz is deprived of German citizenship. Teaches full-time at the Sterne-Grosz Studio and at The Art Students League. Lives initially at the Cambridge Hotel and finally settles in Bayside, Long Island, until 1936. He receives further commissions from Vanity Fair.

1934
Devotes himself to watercolour painting, filling sketchbooks with scenes of New York life. Exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, London.

1935
From May to September Grosz travels in Europe with his family. He illustrates the novel The Voice of the City by O. Henry, one of America's most popular authors. Illustrations by Grosz were printed in two issues of Art Front. Visits his mother in Denmark for the last time. Applies for U.S. citizenship.

1936
Grosz closes the Sterne-Grosz art school, which his partner left the previous year. Grosz receives his first commission for illustrations from the widely circulated Esquire magazine, whose short stories and articles are by famous American writers, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Morley Callaghan. The Museum of Modern Art includes Grosz in two group exhibitions at the same time, "Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism" and "Modern Painters and Sculptors as Illustrators." The Whitney Museum of American Art invites him to participate in its biennial. Grosz moves to Douglaston, Long Island, with his family, where they will reside until 1947.

1937
Grosz is awarded the prestigious Guggenheim grant, which is renewed the following year, and which allows him to work independently for two years. Though not well-off, Grosz takes in and supports several friends who have immigrated to the United States. In Germany, Grosz's work is prominently displayed in the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art). Two hundred eighty-five of his paintings and drawings in public collections are confiscated and many are destroyed.

1938
Becomes a U.S. citizen. Continues to have numerous illustrations published in Esquire.

1939
Grosz has one illustration published in Esquire. He quits the magazine.

1940
Teaches at Columbia University (until 1942).

1941
Retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, which later tours to venues throughout the United States. Teaches again for three years at The Art Students League.

1942
Interviewed on the radio program "Art Under Hitler," produced by CBS and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1943
The New Yorker publishes a three-part profile of Grosz by Richard O. Boyer.

1944
Grosz's mother and sister die in a bombing raid in Berlin.

1946
Publication of Grosz's autobiography A Little Yes and A Big No in New York. Growing depression and increasing alcoholism.

1947
Moves to Huntington, Long Island. Offered a professorship at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin.

1948
Despite widespread critical recognition, Grosz sells few works and has little money. Exhibition at the Associated American Artists in New York.

1949
After a four-year respite, forced for financial reasons to resume teaching at The Art Students League and at the private art school in his house on Long Island. Over the summer, teaches at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

1950
Solo exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

151
Grosz's older sister dies. Visits Europe from May to November for the first time after the war.

1954
Travels to Hamburg, Berlin, and South Germany. Visits Otto Dix. In London, designs sets for the film I Am a Camera based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. Retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.

1955
Publication of the original German version of Grosz's autobiography, which, unlike the American edition, is unabridged.

1956
Teaches at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and lectures at the Des Moines Art Center.

1958
In Berlin from September to November. The National Gallery in Berlin acquires one of his major paintings Stützen der Gesellschaft (Pillars of Society).

1959
He and Eva sell their house, draw up their wills, and return permanently to Berlin in June. They move into a flat in Eva's parents' house. Only a few weeks after their return, following a night of drinking with friends, Grosz collapses shortly after midnight in the entrance hall. 6 July, he is found unconscious by neighbors in the morning and taken upstairs to the flat, where he dies shortly after from heart failure.

George Grosz is buried in the municipal cemetery in Trakehner Allee, in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin.




* Based on chronologies compiled by Ralph Jentsch George Grosz, The Berlin Years, exh. cat. (Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, 1997), and by Frank Whitford in The Berlin of George Grosz: Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints 1912-1930, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1997).

Past Gallery Exhibitions

NEW YORK
Crosscurrents in Modern Drawing
January 8 - February 15, 2013
NEW YORK
Moeller New York Summer Exhibition
July 2 - September 14, 2012
NEW YORK
George Grosz Esq.
Drawings for Esquire Magazine
December 20, 2010 - February 18, 2011
BERLIN
George Grosz, Esq.
Drawings for Esquire Magazine
April 20 - August 7, 2010
NEW YORK
George Grosz: His Visual and Theatrical Politics
October 27 - December 23, 2005