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    Sale 7703

    Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 194

    George Grosz (1883-1959)

    Die drei Soldaten

    Price Realised  


    George Grosz (1883-1959)
    Die drei Soldaten
    signed 'Grosz' (lower left); inscribed 'No 2' (lower right)
    pen and India ink on paper
    23 5/8 x 18 1/8 cm. (60.1 x 46 cm.)
    Executed in 1932

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    This drawing is sold with a photo-certificate from Ralph Jentsch who will include it in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of works on paper by George Grosz.

    Marking an unwelcome return to the bitter themes of his fiercely anti-militarist work during the war years, Die drei Soldaten is a powerful drawing by Grosz reinvoking the grim and terrifying spectre of war hovering once again over the landscape of Europe. A brilliant but hauntingly pessimistic vision of endless war and devastation executed in 1931, this drawing was made for the title page of Berthold Brecht's 1932 children's book entitled Die Drei Soldaten. It was also one of the leading images of Grosz's last great portfolio of prints, Interregnum of 1936, Grosz's savage graphic indictment of the Third Reich.

    Brecht's story of 'Three Soldiers' takes the form of a long poem describing how three soldiers, Hunger, Disaster and Disease, after deserting at the end of the war, travel through a Germany so full of corruption, inequality, injustice and indifference that they too begin to commit atrocities. Despairing of the human race and the impotence of God, whom they also meet, it is only when the soldiers reach a people's collective in Moscow that they are recognized for what they are. There they are resisted and condemned to death - a sentence that they themselves eagerly welcome. Brecht's purpose in the creation of this grim children's story was to prompt children to ask questions and to attempt to awaken a German public to the dangers of once again allowing themselves to slip under the influence of a similar bunch of murderous and war-hungry autocrats to those that had started the last war.

    Adopting the style and grandeur of old master depictions of the Apocalypse, the cut of Grosz's earlier satirical bite is here transformed into a kind of grim world-weary realism. The 'Three Soldiers' of this work are sober reflections of Grosz's own despairing state of mind at this time as he watched all the evil he had prophesied and warned against in his work, slowly taking a hold of his homeland. The vision that Grosz depicts in this work, one that in his 1944 book drawings also went under the title of 'the Last Call', is one that ultimately transcends the limits of Brecht's story to stand, as it was to do in Interregnum, as a grim prophecy of Germany's future under Hitler.

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    Mr & Mrs Erich Cohn, New York.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 22 May 1981, lot 864.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    B. Brecht, Die drei Soldaten. Ein Kinderbuch, Berlin, 1932, p. 2 (illustrated).
    G. Grosz, Interregnum, New York, 1936 (illustrated pl. 2).
    New Masses, 21 April 1936, p. 27 (illustrated).
    G. Grosz, George Grosz, Drawings, New York, 1944, no. 5 (illustrated).
    G. Grosz, George Grosz, New York, 1948, p. 85 (illustrated).
    H. Bittner (ed.), George Grosz, New York, 1960, p. 56 (illustrated).
    B. Irwin Lewis, George Grosz, Art and Politics in the Weimar Republic, Madison, 1971, pp. 206 & 210 (illustrated p. 209).
    H. Hess, George Grosz, New York, 1974, no. 164 (illustrated p. 172).


    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, George Grosz, January - March 1954, no. 100; this exhibition later travelled to Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Pasadena, Art Institute, & San Francisco, Museum of Art.