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

The Enemy of the Rainbow

George Grosz (1893-1959)
The Enemy of the Rainbow
signed 'GROSZ' (lower right)
watercolour and reed pen and India ink on paper
25 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. (65 x 48 cm.)
Executed in 1946
The artist's estate (with the Nachlass stamp and number '1.85.6' on the reverse).
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
U. Schneede (ed.), George Grosz, Leben und Werk, Stuttgart, 1975, no. 226 (illustrated p. 132).
Naples, Accademia di Belle Arti, Goya, Daumier, Grosz, Il trionfo dell'idiozia, Pregiudizi, follie e banalità dell'esistenza europea, April - May 1992, no. 260 (illustrated p. 238).
Milan, Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta, Il disegno del nostro secolo, Da Klimt a Wols, April - July 1994, no. 166 (illustrated p. 258).
Genova, Palazzo Ducale, Arte della libertà, Antifascismo, guerra e liberazione in Europa 1925-1945, November 1995 - March 1996, no. 275 (illustrated p. 326).
Siena, Complesso Museale Santa Maria della Scala, La lente di Freud, Una galleria dell'inconscio, November 2008 - February 2009 (illustrated p. 331).
Brühl, Max Ernst Museum [R. Jentsch (ed.)], Georg Grosz, Deutschland, ein Wintermärchen, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Collagen, 1908-1958, September - December 2011, no. 86 (illustrated p. 152).

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Cornelia Svedman
Cornelia Svedman

Lot Essay

'As the great English satirist George Orwell puts it in his new book, 1984: 'War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength'... Efforts are being made to extinguish the past absolutely (as Orwell rightly says) by applying the sinister totalitarian laws of a grey present.' (George Grosz, Letter to Otto Schmalhausen, 20 June 1949, H. Knust, ed., George Grosz, Briefe 1913-1959, Hamburg, 1979, p. 432).
The Enemy of the Rainbow is one of an extensive series of Stick Men paintings that Grosz made in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Created in the wake of news of the Holocaust, the Atomic Bomb and the rise of the Cold War, these terrifying paintings powerfully articulate a grey, impersonalized world of utter hopelessness and desolation. They express a vision of the future as a totalitarian world of ruins, factories and prison camps where the individual has been destroyed and mankind has become an empty vessel unable to think with his hollow head or even to hear or learn; his ears have been bolted shut. Prefiguring Orwell's own dystopian vision, written in 1948, Grosz' Stick Men derived in part from the artist's fondness for Franz Kafka's story Metamorphosis and the notion of a man who one day wakes up to find he has become and insect. Echoing this sentiment to some extent, Grosz' insect-like Stick Men paintings present a world where man has become nothing more than an automaton, a numbered cog in a totalitarian machine. As a statement at his 1948 exhibition of these works indicated: 'The Stick Men are men who are called by numbers and not by names', they are 'men who wear slave collars, grey men in a grey world following empty meaningless banners' (Exhibition invitation to George Grosz, The Stick Men, The Associated American Artists, New York, April 1948).
Painted in 1946, The Enemy of the Rainbow is one of the finest of a series of watercolours with this title that culminated in an important oil painting of the same name which Grosz began working on in December 1947. Collectively, all these Enemy of the Rainbow works illustrate a lone Stick Man seemingly angry at the invasion of colour into his grey world through the depiction of either a rainbow-coloured canvas into which he has punched a whole or, as in this work, a rainbow coloured flag. Long a symbol of diversity and union, and one later adopted as such by the peace movement and the LGBT community, the Rainbow Flag was, since it was first founded in Essen in 1922, the emblem of the International Co-operative Alliance. Such concepts of diversity and union, and of a cross-border co-operative of working individuals, clearly has no-place, this painting announces, in the anonymous collectivist era of the Stick Men.

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