From a very young age, George Grosz used to fill notebooks with drawings and notes. In 1909, he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden, and in 1912 he went to Berlin, where he won a scholarship and attended the Academy of Arts and Crafts. The characteristic scenes of city streets and cafés started appearing in his work from this time. In 1913 he traveled to Paris, where he stayed for several months, and came into contact with the avantgarde movement that was developing in the city.
On the outbreak of the First World War, Grosz enlisted in the infantry division of the German army in a regiment of grenadiers. In 1916 he settled in Berlin, where he contributed illustrations to various publications. Theodor Däubler’s article on the painter in the anti-war literary magazine Die Weissen Blätter made Grosz known to a wider artistic circle. He then began a close collaboration with Wieland Herzfelde and John Heartfield, the directors of the Malik-Verlag publishing house, the most important source of progressive left-wing publications.
In 1917 he was called up again, but was hospitalized and declared “completely useless” for military service. On his return, he became involved with the Dadaists and took part in the activities of the Dada Club in Berlin; he was thus one of the organizers of the First International Dada Fair held in Berlin 1920, whose catalogue he produced together with Heartfield. The two of them also collaborated on propaganda films for the army and the UFA, as well as on numerous Dada collages. They were also among the first members of the German Communist Party, which they actively supported. Grosz was prosecuted several times for the offensive content of several of his portfolios. However, in 1926, Alfred Flechtein asked to be his dealer, and organized his first exhibition in Berlin. In 1924, Grosz was appointed president of the Rote Gruppe association of communist artists. Although he left the party that same year, his drawings continued to be published in the party’s magazines.
In 1925 he participated in the New Objectivity exhibition, a group led by Otto Dix. He gradually abandoned drawing and caricature to paint in oils, while continuing to publish illustrations in the magazine Simplicissimus. In 1933, in view of the political climate in Germany, Grosz decided to move to the United States, where he had already been distinguished with awards, been invited as a professor, and held exhibitions. Several of his works were included in the Degenerate Art exhibition organized by the Nazis in Germany. In 1938 he acquired American citizenship and did not visit his native country again until 1954. He died in Berlin in July 1959, just a few months after definitively returning to Germany.
Noemi de Haro