George Grosz


I had grown up in a humanist atmosphere, and war to me was never anything but horror, mutilation and senseless destruction, and I knew that many great and wise people felt the same way about it.
– George Grosz

George Grosz was a German-American artist whose satirical drawings and paintings angered the Nazis, who labeled his works ‘degenerate’.


Grosz was born in  Berlin in 1893, the youngest of three children. His father died when he was seven. His mother and sisters supported the family by sewing. Grosz was interested in drawing as a child and his earliest sketchbook date back to 1905, featuring soldiers and characters from American novels and magazines. 


At age fifteen, Grosz was expelled from school for striking a teacher who was meting out a punishment. His drawing instructor helped him transfer to the to the Dresden Academy of Art. After graduation he moved back to Berlin to attend the School of Arts and Crafts and, in 1913, he spent several moths in Paris at the Académie Colarossi. 


Grosz joined the army in 1914, at the start of World War l, but was discharged after six months because of sinusitis. He was recalled to active duty in 1917 and permanently discharged after a stay in a psychiatric facility. After his discharge, Grosz  began to draw some of the violent scenes that he had witnessed during his short stint in the army.


In 1919, Grosz began to sell his paintings, which focused on anti-war sentiment and were critical of German society. He was arrested, put on trial and fined by the German government for what the government said was blasphemy, pornography and "grossly insulting the German army.”


In 1932, Grosz moved with his wife, Eva, and their two young sons to New York, where he took a job teaching at the Art Students League. They traveled back to Berlin for a visit, where Grosz was disturbed by the growing influence of the Nazi party. He moved his family back to New York, where he became an American citizen and taught at the Art Students League until 1955. 


In 1937, Grosz’s work was included in the Degenerate Art Exhibition, put on by the Nazis, to vilify Jewish artists and other artists who opposed the Hitler regime. Other artists included in the exhibit were Paul Klee, Otto Dix, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. Grosz was stripped of his German citizenship.


In 1959, Grosz sold his home in upstate New York and returned to Berlin. He died a few  months after the move, at age 65.


The Museum of Modern Art exhibited a retrospective of Grosz’s work in 1941. His works are part of the permanent collection of The Met, MoMA, The Tate and other major venues.




Alastair Smart. Ten Things to Know About George Grosz. Christie’s. January 9, 2020.

Mary M. Lane. When This German Artist Tried to Use His Work to Warn About Hitler, the World Ignored Him. It's Time to Listen. TIME Magazine. September 10, 2019.

Lucy Burns. Degenerate art: Why Hitler hated modernism. BBC News. November 6, 2013.



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