George Grosz (1893-1959)
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George Grosz (1893-1959)


George Grosz (1893-1959)
signed 'Grosz' (lower right); signed again and numbered 'Grosz No 43' (lower left)
watercolour and pen and ink on paper
19 7/8 x 19½ in. (50.5 x 49.5 cm.)
Executed in 1922
Eugene V. Thaw & Co., New York.
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris.
Galerie Thomas Borgmann, Cologne.
Konrad Mönter, Dusseldorf.
Fischer Fine Art Ltd., London (K14.303).
Marvin and Janet Fishman, Milwaukee, by whom acquired from the above before 1990; sale, Sotheby's, London, 7 February 2006, lot 13.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Jörn, Ostfreisland Journal, October 1991 (illustrated p. 79). S. Wikström, Gefle Dagblad, 12 December 1995 (illustrated p. 12). D. Jönsson, Göteborgs Tidningen, Gothenberg, 2 January 1996 (illustrated p. 5).
B. Brecht, Aamulehti, 1996 (illustrated p. 20).
D. Sundell, Hufvudstbladet, 11 February 1996 (illustrated p. 18).
Kunst & Cultuur, Antwerp, June 1996 (illustrated p. 1 and on the cover).
Milwaukee, Art Museum, Art in Germany 1909-1936, from Expressionism to Resistance, the Marvin and Janet Fishman Collection, December 1990 - February 1991, no. 52; this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, March - April 1991; Frankfurt-am-main, Schirn Kunsthalle, June - August 1991; Emden, Kunsthalle, August - October 1991; New York, Jewish Museum, November 1991 - January 1992; Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum, February - May 1992 and Atlanta, High Museum, June - August 1992.
Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, Neue Saachlichkeit-Figurative Malerei der 20rt Jahre, October 1994 - January 1995, no. 53 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to The Hague, Museum Het Paleis, July - October 1995; Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, November 1995 - January 1996; Helsinki, Taidehalli, February - April 1996 and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, June - August 1996.
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Ralph Jentsch has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Centred on the image of a grotesque, drunken, cigar-smoking, pig-like man spewing wine through his rotten teeth onto his dinner plate, this watercolour is a bitter and powerful expression of the complete state of collapse into which Germany had fallen in the years following the First World War. It forms part of a long series of drawings and watercolours by Grosz that captured and detailed the unique and spectacularly ugly social conditions of his native Berlin during these years of failed revolution, inflation, desperation, debauchery and financial ruin - many of which ended up in his tendentious and immediately-banned 1923 portfolio, ironically entitled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!).

A metaphor for Germany and mankind as a whole, this picture depicts all of Man's baser instincts with regards to pleasuring himself through the conceit of a small-time bar. The bar of gangsters or the regulars table is one of Grosz's favourite and most repeated themes. This bar-room scene, revolving around the gruesome central figure at the table captures, in an almost cinematic sequence of events reading clockwise from the right, people copulating, drinking themselves sick, defecating and leaving all within one condensed square space.

Rendered in the crude 'knife-hard' drawing style Grosz had developed from copying children's drawings and urinal graffiti, but with a bitter accuracy and sharpness of observation that is unsurpassed in modern art, Grosz's stylized forms carry within them the brutal and undeniable ring of truth. Coordinated into a pictorial unity in this work by his masterful use of harsh clashing acidic colours bleeding into one another to heighten the garish intensity of the scene, the bestial sequence of acts depicted here are also underpinned and united by a pervasive black humour.

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