George Grosz

George Grosz

George Grosz

George Grosz

Excerpt

Writers on art tend to prefer artists who can be easily pigeonholed -- who travel armed, as it were, with a passport clearly listing their characteristics: their dates, their school, their place of residence in the art world, plus any special marks of identification. George Grosz, however, defies such easy classification. His work cannot be given an easy descriptive brand name or fitted into any of the artistic "isms" of the twentieth century.

Born in Berlin on July 26, 1893, where he died on July 6, 1959 after having spent his last 27 years in the United States, critics are not agreed on whether Grosz was an American or German artist. They have been unable to decide whether he was primarily a draughtsman or a painter, a social satirist or a surrealist bewitched by symbols, a cartoonist or a visionary -- or whether he was not, perhaps, a unique mixture of all these. Some writers think of him as a period piece of Germany's Weimar Republic which, in his Berlin youth, he graphically depicted and "unmasked." Many have filed him away as this and nothing more, glossing over the work of his years in America as if, by the mere fact of his migration, his artistic power had been suddenly amputated. Having safely and satisfactorily labeled the German George Grosz, it has been easier for them to ignore the American George Grosz, whose achievements were so very different. Fascinated by the youthful revolutionary artist, who was certainly exciting enough, many were reluctant to take up the problem presented by the older man whose work bore little relation to that which they knew so well.

What is certain is that the transatlantic transplantation of Grosz at the age of brought about a complete change of his art in style and subject, form and substance, technique and intent. This alone sets him apart from those other major European painters -- Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Léger -- who came to America as refugees during the war years. On none of these did America exercise an appreciable effect; their art remained substantially what it had been in Europe and when, with the exception of Beckmann, they returned to Europe after 1945, they resumed their careers as if nothing had happened. Unlike them Grosz came to America in 1932 of his own free will. He was not a refugee to whom America meant little more . . .

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