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Arcadia and Metropolis
Masterworks of German Expressionism
From the Nationalgallerie Berlin

Neue Gallerie Museum of German and Austrian Art

1048 Fifth Avenue

March 12 to June 8, 2004

Rough, Raw and Riotous

"Potsdamer Platz" by Kirchner

"Potsdamer Platz," by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, oil on canvas, 78 ¾ by 59 inches, 1914

By Carter B. Horsley

This superb exhibition of German Expressionist art from the Nationalgallerie Berlin includes many very memorable masterworks by such artists as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Max Beckman (1884-1950), Otto Dix (1891-1969) and George Grosz (1893-1959).

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is the best of German Expressionists. His compositions brim with frenzied energy and cool palettes.

"Potsdamer Platz" is one of his masterpieces. An oil on canvas that measures 78 ¾ by 59 inches, it was executed in 1914.

The catalogue provides the following commentary by Roland März:

"In the weeks…following the outbreak of war in August 1914, Kirchner completed the largest and most important street scene from his time in Berlin: Potsdamer Platz at night. It was then the busiest intersection in Europe and had any number of nightclubs and bars. In the background, the red brick building of Potsdamer Bahnhof stands out, reduced in size by Kirchner to an arcade; the time of the station clock is midnight. On the left, there is the Café Piccadilly which was opened by Kempinski in 1913 and re-named Haus Vaterland (House of the Fatherland) on the outbreak of war. On the right, part of the Pschorr-Haus can be seen, minus several stories. Yet it is not the representative architecture of Potsdamer Platz, which adjoined the octagonal Leipziger Platz, that is the focus of interest, but the two almost life-size streetwalkers. Standing on a traffic island, they are the main protagonists. The prostitute on the left is dressed as if in mourning and conceals her face behind a widow's veil. With her pale-green face and flaming red hair, she exudes a caged-in approachability. The old cemetery that was once situated opposite Potsdamer Bahnhof is not shown in the painting, but a symbolic link with death is created. The younger of the two, dressed in Prussian blue, tapers into the transcendental like a figure on the portal of a medieval cathedral. Kirchner's models for the prostitutes were Erna and Gerda Schilling. We are presented with a pantomine situation in which both figures clearly turn away from each other; youthfulness and maturity, the desire to stand one's ground or leave. Striding towards these two figures in their illusory monumentality are potential clients dressed in black. Yet not one of them is able to close the gap between them and the objects of their desire. Unresolved erotic tension exists between the sexes. Isolation is Kirchner's subject here, his message being that ultimately big-city prostitution brings no fulfillment, a topic he discussed in his studio with the author and psychiatrist Alfred Döblin. Kirchner was himself a creature of the night who intensively experienced a sense of personal alienation in the metropolis, where the beauty and notoriety of sexuality fascinated him. He chose to explore the subject in numerous drawings and woodcuts using contrasting forms: human figure versus urban setting, big versus small, oval versus circular (left). Within this urban environment, powerful lines underline the extreme tension between the figures and the architectural backdrop, further exaggerated by the subtle contrasts in the differentiated coloring: poisonous green versus cold slate-gray, shadowy blackish-blue versus oppressive rose-pink."

"Zwei Badende (Fehmarn)/Two Bathers (Fehmarn)" by Kirchner

"Zwei Badende (Fehmarn)/Two Bathers (Fehmarn)," by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, oil on canvas, 24 by 19 7/8 inches, 1912

Erna and Gerda Schilling are depicted by Kirchner in another oil on canvas, "Zwei Badende (Fehmarn)/Two Bathers (Fehmarn) that was executed in 1912. The painting measures 24 by 19 7/8 inches. Kirchner and Erna were lovers. He had first visited the Baltic island of Fehmarn in 1908 and returned in two years later. In 1912, the Schilling sisters, whom he knew from Berlin, accompanied Kirchner back to Fehmarn and Erich Heckel visited them. In his catalogue entry for this work, Roland März noted that "For Kirchner, the island of Fehmarn had 'the richness of the South Seas' with its luxuriant landscapes and vegetation, but it not lead him to indulge in erotic sentimentalism." "Springing from the foam and striding out into the sea," März continued, "the two bathers look like the rulers of these deserted Baltic shores where Kirchner discovered the puppet-like qualities that would characterize the Gothicized style of his figures during his years in Berlin. After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Kirchner and his lover Erna Schilling had to leave the island in a hurry: 'As we were leaving Fehmarn, I was arrested several times because I looked like a suspect Russian. We left a few days later because I had a rather serious knee injury and was unable to walk. I found it hard to leave the place so abruptly because I was completely wrapped up in the countryside and life there and was able to get down to work almost without thinking."

The painting depicts one of the sisters throwing stones into the water while the other one bends down toward the water. It is reminiscent to some degree of Picasso's "Demoiselles" and some of Cézanne's "bathers" but is more painterly and much more vibrant in is almost Fauve intensity.

'Der Belle-Alliance=Platz in Berlin" by Kirchner

"Der Belle - Alliance - Platz in Berlin/Belle Alliance Square in Berlin," by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, tempera on canvas, 37 ¾ by 33 ½ inches, 1914

Another superb Kirchner is "Der Belle - Alliance - Platz in Berlin/Belle Alliance Square in Berlin," a tempera on canvas that measures 37 ¾ by 33 ½ inches and was executed in 1914.

In his catalogue entry for this work, Roland März provided the following commentary:

"Situated just opposite Hallesches Tor Station, Belle Alliance Square was a favorite of Kirchner's on account of its round gardens that were originally baroque in design. The circular round tower at the southern end of Friedrichstrasse was laid out by Friedrich Wilhelm I around 1730; in 1840, an eighteen-meter-high column by Christian Daniel Rauch was erected to commemorate the triumph over Napoleon at Belle Alliance and the victorious conclusion to the Wars of Liberation in 1815. With the exception of the Victory Column, Belle Alliance Square was destroyed in World War II; thereafter it was re-named Mehringplatz and the reconstruction was completed in 1975 after plans by Hans Scharoun. Kirchner's painting is almost square in format; in it, he shows the Belle Alliance Square from Hallesches Tor and contrasts its stage-like arrangement with the towering houses to left and right, and the open space with its column surrounded by bare trees. In terms of perspective, the square is titled boldly upwards. The tall buildings with their arcades look unwelcoming; matchstick men in tall hats mill about like ants in their urban anonymonity and forlorness before filing past the column and moving off north toward Friedrichstrasse. The delicate Victory Column has been transformed into a towering monument. A reserved palette of stone gray, dirty green and pale yellow fills the canvas. All its signs of mutability and sadness as well as the pale coloring and the bare winter trees make Belle Alliance Square…an immediate predecessor of Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, painted in 1915. Kirchner associated the movement of passersby with feelings of loneliness and emptiness amidst the teeming maze of Berlin."

One recalls some of Vuillard's wonderful paintings of Parisian squares but they are soft and gentle compared with Kirchner's strident scene. Kirchner's people have a cadence. Vuillard's have character. Kirchner's architecture is archly abstract lovingly . Vuillard's is lovingly detailed. Kirchner's slapdash style, however, inviting and public. Vuillard's world is mostly privileged and private.

"Rheinbrücke in Koln/Bridge Over the Rhine at Cologne" by Kirchner

"Rheinbrücke in Köln/Bridge Over the Rhine at Cologne," by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, oil on canvas, 47 3/8 by 35 7/8 inches, 1914

No where is Kirchner's enjoyment of distortion better seen than in "Rheinbrücke in Köln/Bridge Over the Rhine at Cologne."

The catalogue published a photograph of this bridge, the Hohenzollern Bridge with a view of the Cologne Cathedral in the background. The view is very similar to Kirchner's, except that the artist has not included a level of angled struts atop the swooping arch of the bridge and diagonal bracing across the roadway from the top of the arches and also probably depicted the scene from the second set of arches at the right of the photograph.

Kirchner's bridge, therefore, is far simpler but also more monumental. The real bridge has relatively slender columns in comparison with those in the painting. Furthermore, Kirchner has taken liberties with his perspective to make the arches of the bridge come closer together in the distance and made the twin towers of the cathedral loom larger. The catalogue entry for this work notes that "Alongside the cathedral at Strasbourg, it was considered to be the pinnacle of German medieval architecture and was also a national symbol." The cathedral was not finished until the 19th Century.

The painting's perspective is also skewed by the lovely woman dressed in pink in the center foreground and by the red wheels of the locomotive on the other side of the bridge at the right. The woman almost seems as tall as the locomotive but her height almost seems to make the bridge seem not as monumental as the overall composition implies. Kirchner's brushwork adds great energy to his highly compacted scene as does the lively palette.

"Akt im Atelier (Norelein)/Nude in the Studio (Norelein)" by Kirchner

"Akt im Atelier (Norelein)/Nude in the Studio (Norelein)," by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, oil on canvas, 36 5/8 by 37 inches, 1909-11

Another Kirchner masterpiece is "Akt im Atelier (Norelein)/Nude in the Studio (Norilein)," an oil on canvas that measures 36 5/8 by 37 inches and was executed in 1909-11. The nude model is seen in a room decorated with wood-carvings, painted cloth and furniture executed mainly by Kirchner. "The girl's body is strongly contoured, the line disciplined and emphatic in form," observed Roland März in his catalogue entry for this work. " The gently flowing, loose contours of his early figures with their drowsy sensuousness have now disappeared. In his use of flat planes of color, the influence of Matisse - always denied by Kirchner - is unmistakable, yet the passive female eroticism of the latter's earlier works has now been left behind….The room's exotic touch reveals Kirchner's interest in the 'primitive' art of Africa and the south Seas that he was able to study in depth at Dresden's Museum of Ethnology….As he strove to reduce his colors, planes and form still further, Kirchner not only spend more than three years reworking this figure, but in the trauma of 'modernization' during the 1920s also probably later painted over the work in a fresh and somewhat poster-like manner."

Kirchner spent his childhood in Frankfurt am Main and in Perlen near Lucerne, according to Mr. März. He studied architecture at Dresden's technical university from 1901-1905 and also studied art in Munich in 1903 and his early works were influenced by Jugendstil. In 1905 he and fellow students Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl founded the artist group Brucke. "Kirchner's experiments in art at this time still reflected the influence of the post-impressionist school of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in Paris. In 1909 Kirchner visited the Matisse exhibition in the Paul Cassirer gallery…in Berlin, and this had a strong influence on his style. …in 1910 Kirchner became a member of the Neue Secession in Berlin….Much impressed by visits to Dresden's ethnological museum, he began to chisel his first works out of wood. In October 1911, Kirchner was the first Brücke artist to move to Berlin, where he founded the ill-fated MUIM Institute (Modern Instruction in Art) with Max Pechstein….In 1915 Kirchner signed up for military service as 'an unwilling volunteer' and he spent the war as a driver in the field artillery….He was dismissed due to a psychic illness, and by forced consumption of absinth, morphine and Veronal, he tried to avoid the trauma of having to return to the front. An odyssey of sojourns in sanatoriums began…The overwhelming natural beauty of the Swiss Alps took over as his main source of inspiration, and he distanced himself from his previous favorite theme - 'city life.'…Following the rise to power of National Socialism in 1933, Kirchner felt increasingly under threat, and after the annexation of Austria he was afraid - in 1938 - that German troops would soon be marching into Grabünden. In 1937 the Nazis had already confiscated 639 of his works from German museums and had denounced them as 'degenerate.'…He began to destroy the printing blocks for his woodcuts and his sculptures. On June 15 he shot himself in front of his house on the Wilboden in Davos."

"Tannen vor weissem Haus/Fir Trees in Front of a White House" by Schmidt-Rottluff

"Tannen vor weissem Haus/Fir Trees in Front of a White House," by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, oil on canvas, 31 1/8 by 33 ¼ inches, 1911

"Tannen vor Weissem Haus/Fir Trees in Front of a White House" is a extremely strong landscape by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. An oil on canvas that measures 31 1/8 by 33 ¼ inches, it was executed in 1911 and shows an old post office that was also a lodging house that was next door to the artist's home in Dangast. The catalogue entry by Andrea Hollinger for this work notes that "The right half of the picture includes read and black trees intermingled. They seem to glow from within, inserted in the form of the brilliant white of the house like a kind of grille. On the left, a red path curves past the saturated green of the pasture in which three happy, spectral shapes not unlike trolls are frolicking. The green of the meadow, slightly changed by an underlay of blue, recurs in the distant sky. The colors describe not only the external appearance of things but also express their character, enabling the viewer to appreciate the nature of the landscape."

"Mädchen vor dem Spiegel/Girl Before a Mirror" by Schmidt-Rottluff

"Mädchen vor dem Spiegel/Girl Before a Mirror," by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, oil on canvas, 39 ¾ by 34 ¼ inches, 1915

"Mädchen vor dem Spiegel/Girl Before a Mirror" is another masterwork by Schmidt-Rottluff: a perfect cross between Picasso and Matisse. It is extremely bold, agitated and intriguing. In his catalogue notes on the work, Mr. März notes that the nude woman in the picture "is placed diagonally in the room as an awkward, marionette-like figure, with arms and breasts sticking out in bizarre fashion into the corner of the room. Her face is rigid like a mask, and imbued with an expression of inner withdrawal. The soul is now a wholly shuttered figure in the shelter of imagined space. The melancholy, self-protective mimicry and volume of he figure with its prominent outlines reveal Schmidt-Rottluff's intense pre-occupation with the 'primitive' art of African tribes, which otherwise only French Cubist painting remotely explored. The colors are applied in broad strokes that fan outwards, as the painter sought to bring 'nature' from outside into the studio, as if to reflect the sun in the yellow ochre of the girl or the warm tones of earth in the brown of the walls or the green of the grass on the floor. In the mirror, almost the whole figure is reflected, head averted, against a bright blue, leading out into the light of day. The figure thus enters a second level of unity with its reflection' the frontiers between inside and outside, interior space and external space are dissolved in the high-voltage unity of man with longed-for Nature. Nakedness implies risk- the nudity of the girl asserts defiant resistance in the face of the destructive forces of war."

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff was born Karl Schmidt in Rottluff, a suburb of Chemnitz, in 1884. He met Erich Heckel at the Royal High School and in 1905 he began to study architecture at the Technical University in Dresden where he met Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Fritz Bleyl and they and Heckel founded an artists' group known as "Brücke, which," according to Andrea Hollmann's catalogue entry on Schmidt-Rottluff, "initially aspired to form not only a new, collective, working environment but a community which lived together. Heckel later explained how the group got its name, and how vague but also at the same time how precise its aims actually were: 'Of course we gave much thought to how we should present ourselves to the public. One evening we were discussing this on the way home. Schmidt-Rottluff suggested that we call ourselves Brücke, as this was a word with many layers of meaning and one which did not suggest any specific manifesto, which stated our intention to leave one bank and cross over to another. It was clear what we wanted to leave behind, but our destination was vague.' …During World War I he served as a soldier in northern Russia and Lithuania. After the war…, he returned to Berlin…and worked for the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Work-Council for Art)….In 1931, Schmidt-Rottluff was appointed to become a member of the PreuBische Akademie der Künste (Prussian Academy of Arts ) in Berlin. However, two years later he was expelled again following the rise to power of National Socialism. In 1936 he was forbidden to exhibit, and in 1937 over fifty of his works were denounced in the Entartete Kunst exhibition. 608 paintings by Schmidt-Rottluff were removed from German museums and confiscated. In 1941 he was forbidden to paint….In 1947, he returned to Berlin and in the same year he was offered the post of professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts) in West Berlin, where he taught until 1954. In 1964 he donated his works to the city of Berlin and initiated the building of a museum that was primarily dedicated to showing the Brücke painters. The Brücke museum was opened in 1967." He died in 1976.

"Dorftanz (Dangast)/Village Dance (Dangast)" by Heckel

"Dorftanz (Dangast)/Village Dance (Dangast)," by Erich Heckel, oil on canvas, 26 3/8 by 29 1/8 inches, 1908

In contrast to the quite aggressive styles of Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel is represented by works that are very engaging but not insinuating. "Dorftanz (Dangast)/Village Dance (Dangast)," for example, is a dance hall scene that is extremely rich in color and charm. An oil on canvas that measures 26 3/8 by 29 1/8 inches, it was painted in 1908.

According to Andrea Hollmann's catalogue entry for this painting, Heckel "stages the villagers' dance in the manner of a play." "Viewed as if from the wings, the unusual sense of depth is emphasized by the red curtains drawn back to reveal the full length of the dance hall. A rather awkward-looking dancing couple is at the center; they are surrounded on the left by the diagonal row of village beauties siting, waiting for partners, and by the village men, still hanging back, on the right. Roughly outlined in black against a luminous ochre-yellow background, these figures were applied to a coarse canvas that clearly shines through in several places. The painting is characterized by strong coloring: green and black contrast with the primary colors of yellow, blue and red. In particular, the row of village girls in their Sunday best in the background dissolves into individual sports of color."

"Landschaft bei Dresden" by Heckel

"Landschaft bei Dresden/Landscape Near Dresden," by Erich Heckel, oil on canvas, 26 1/8 by 30 7/8 inches, 1910

Two years later, Heckel would paint "Landscaft bei Dresden/Landscape Near Dresden," a work of even bolder intensity. An oil on canvas, it measures 26 1/8 by 30 7/8 inches and is much more saturated than most Fauve paintings but also more agonized. A small bridge over a red river in the foreground is rendered with wispy dark lines that contrast wildly with the broader brushwork of the rest of the picture. The lower half of the painting, indeed, is almost an "action" painting and there is a disregard of prettiness and neatness but the overall effect is very compelling.

One of the founders of Brucke in 1905, Heckel became their "dedicated chairman," according to Mr. Hollmann's catalogue entry on the artist. "Heckel…was the one who repeatedly provided new inspiration: "Of all the artists belonging to the Brucke, it was Heckel who most intensely and regularly addressed literary and philosophical issues….In addition to Nietzsche, Heckel also introduced his friends to Oscar Wilde's critical, ironic and utopian discourses, Walt Whitman's passionate poems and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's psychologically compelling novels….At the outbreak of World War I, Heckel volunteered for duty with the Red Cross, training as a male urse, and in 1915 he was stationed in Belgium as a medical orderly. After the war ended, he returned to bern….He slowly turned away from expressionism, and his artistic expression moved towards 'a sort of classical naturalism.' Many of Heckel's works were shown in the Entartete Kunst exhibition and 729 of his works were removed from museums and confiscated."

"Frauenbad/Women's Bath" by Beckmann

"Frauenbad/Women's Bath," by Max Beckmann, oil on canvas, 38 3/8 by 25 5/8 inches, 1919

"Frauenbad/Women's Bath," a superb and great oil on canvas by Max Beckmann, was inspired by the artist's service as a medical orderly in World War I in Belgium. The work measures 38 3/8 by 25 5/8 inches and was executed in 1919. In his catalogue entry on the work, Roland März maintained that "the severity of the composition and its brutal realism show that it was the old German masters more than other works of art that served as Beckman's models at the time: 'To be a child of one's time. Naturalism versus one's own self. Objectivity versus an inner face. My love is for the great 4 painters of male mysticism: MüleBkirchner, Grünewald, Breughel and van Gogh.' The narrow room with its angular timberwork resembles a wartime dugout more than a bath chamber; two babies, two boys and seven women of different ages are tightly packed into the barricaded room - a pauper's bath with no water! The scene is reminiscent of Hans Baldung Grien's Lebensstufen des Alters (The Seven Ages of Women) in the way it shows the old woman standing with her back toward us and the baby on the carpet in front of her. The letters on the boy's cap are probably an allusion to the Social Democratic newspaper VOR(warts)(Forward) during the political turmoil on the Kapp Putsch and the postwar era. In the pitiful way they have been thrown together, only the woman on the trapeze wearing a bathing costume adds any threatening movement of the scene;' she is the only one here who presents the possibility of escape from this cordoned-off space."

"Beckmann lived in Berlin from 1904 onwards, and here he exhibited at the Berliner Secession until 1913, evoking strong reactions from critics with his apocalyptic series entitled Untergang von Messina und Titanic. As early as 1909 Beckmann had expressed his preference for 'raw, ordinary, vulgar art' which 'opened life's doors to all that is horrible, mean, wonderful, normal, grotesque and banal.' As a stalwart representative of objectivity and spatial issues in painting, Beckmann voiced his opinions in the journal Pan in 1912, criticizing the decorative and unrealistic spirituality of the art of Franz Marc and the Blaue Reiter artist group. In 1914 he was appointed to the board of Berlin's newly founded Freie Sezession. Following the outbreak of war, he volunteered as a member of the medical corps and went to Belgium in 1915. In his etchings he ridiculed the martyrdom of those who took part in the battles of material. This saw the beginning of his extensive portrayal of 'world theater,' presented in Christian metaphors and based on the humiliation and desecration of World War I. After a nervous breakdown and dismissal from military service in 1916-17, Beckmann lived in Frankfurt am Main. Here, in 1925, he was appointed to the Kunstschule am Städelschen Kunstinstitut…as director of the master art studio….Following the rise to power of National Socialism he lost his teaching job at the Städelschule and moved…to Berlin….590 of Beckmann's works were confiscated and denounced as 'degenerate' art, and on June 19, 1937 he emigrated to Amsterdam where he lived until 1948, and even as war threatened to break out he refused a teaching post in the USA. Beckmann had a very difficult time as a painter living in German-occupied Holland….When the German troops marched in in 1940, Max Beckmann burnt his diaries. His son Peter secretly smuggled his pictures into Germany to be sold by the Munich art dealer Günter Franke….After the end of the war…, Beckmann was offered teaching posts at art academies in Berlin, Darmstadt, Hamburg and Munich, but he refused them all and emigrated to the United states in 1948. At first he lived in Saint Louis in Missouri, and then he was professor at the art school of the Brooklyn Museum in New York."

"Die Skatspieler/The Skat Players" by Otto Dix

"Die Skatspieler/The Skat Players," by Otto Dix, oil and collage on canvas, 43 ¼ by 34 ¼ inches, 1920

In "The Skat Players," Otto Dix depicts three cripped veterans playing skat.

In his catalogue entry on this work, Mr. März provides the following commentary:

"Beneath the table, the legs of the furniture and the cripples can no longer be distinguished. On the left, there is the blind and hard-of-hearing NCO, a martinet and philistine; in the middle we see the chimera-like captain, a tough old trooper with a mind full of erotic fantasies: sexus - plexus - perplexus. On the right is a youthful lieutenant, a smart, artistic type, a greenhorn in the adventure of war. Self-mockingly, the artist has included his own passport photograph in the head of the figure on the right….As in a collection of curios, Dix's piece of Dadaist grotesquerie makes use of a provocative combination of an oil painting and collage.. .in a shocking manner to highlight the absurdity of the post-war hardship suffered by cripples, social outcasts. In this insane 'overcome-everything' work, the card players' determined survivalist instinct outlasts the atrocities of the time. For Dix, art was a way to banish the ugly, the paradoxical and the horrendous to the brink of the end of time."

"Stützen der Gesselschaft/Pillars of Society" by Grosz

"Stützen der Gesellschaft/Pillars of Society," by George Grosz, oil on canvas, 78 3/8 by 42 ½ inches, 1926

George Grosz has two fine and memorable works in the exhibition, "Grauer Tag/Gloomy Day," and "Stützen der Gesellschaft/Pillars of Society." The latter is certainly one of his masterpieces.

In the catalogue, Roland März provides the following commentary about it:

"Pillars of Society is the key work in George Grosz's politically propagandistic output during the 1920s. In it, he again took up social issues he had already examined in 1918 in his now missing painting Deutschland, ein Wintermärchen (Germany: A Winter's Tale). Pillars of Society is an ironic reference to Henrik Ibsen's play of the same name. In the way it characterizes social types, this composition can be traced back to the missing drawing Wir treten zum Beten vor Gott den Gerechten! (We stand before God the Righteous to Pray…) published in 1921 by the Berlin-based publishing house Malik in a book entitled Das Gesicht der herrschenden Klasse (The Face of the Ruling Class). The 'pillars of society' in Grosz's large- scale work are epitomized by the representatives of state authority in the Weimar Republic: the earless lawyer with his dueling scar and opaque monocle, characterized as one of the 'old guard' with his stand-up collar; he holds a large beer glass and a foil to indicate his status as a member of a fraternity;' from his opened skull an incorrigible cavalry officer from the former eastern territories emerges. The journalist resembles the press baron Alfred Hugenberg, who was nicknamed 'the spider.' As a sign [of]…his limited mental capacity, he is shown with a chamber pot on his head; partly 'hidden' behind a harmless palm leaf, colored mainly green for hope with with touches of red, he carries the Berliner Lokalanzeiger and the 8 Urh Abendblatt under his arm. Leaning on the Reichstag is the opportunistic Social Democratic parliamentarian clutching his German national flag and a flyer bearing the rabble-rousing slogan 'Socialism is Work' (no strikes, please!)., intent on keeping the 'whole crap' going. The boozy military chaplain is the representative of the country's generals. Hypocritically preaching peace, he tolerates murder and manslaughter by the Reichswehr behind his back. In the distance, a house goes up in flames; years later, it will be the turn of the Reichstag and the country's synagogues. With the exception of his friend John Heartfield in his photomontages…, no one was as scathing of the ruling class during the 'Roaring Twenties,' or so unrelentingly exposed its ugly features, as George Grosz."

"In Berlin, Grosz shocked the bourgeoisie through public appearances where he covered himself with whie powder. His stay in Paris in 1913 and his encounter with Jules Pascin only served to strengthen his hatred of the bourgeoisie and the heathen Hunds. In 1916 and 197, influenced by the paintings of Italian Futurists…Grosz painted huge apocalyptic canvases….Following the outbreak of war in 1914, he enlisted as a volunteer, but he was not able to cope with the blind obedience demanded by the Prussian military and - after a nervous breakdown - he was sent to a mental home….The war turned him into a social critic and pacifist on the lines of Goya, Daumier and Hogarth. John Heartfield and Wieland Herzfelde supported him in his fight against war and against the feudal, bourgeois empire of Wilhelm II. From 1917 to 1920, George Grosz played a provocative role as 'Dada marshal' in Berlin's Dada scene together with Johannes Baader, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield and Hannah Höch. In 1918 he became a member of the KDP, the German communist party. In his paintings which criticized society, Grosz combined elements of expressionism, futurism, Dada collage and Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). Following a journey to the Soviet Union in 1922, his experiences proved so disappointing that it marked the beginning of his retreat from state communism….He was taken to court three times accused of blasphemy and affronting public morals….As his art had failed its mission to instruct, Grosz went ot America as early as 1932."

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