Satirist George Grosz hailed in new Hayward Touring exhibition

George Grosz: The Big No, a Hayward Touring exhibition is being billed as a celebration of the artist, who in the 1920s ‘made hundreds of drawings depicting the vices and injustices of a society on the brink of economic and moral collapse.’

Bow to the authorities

It’s begging an invitation to draw comparison with 2012,  which is in many ways a satirists paradise.

Although Grosz, who was one of the co-founders of the Berlin Dada group, had much more to satirise.

Character portrait
Character portrait

The exhibition, which will start in Sheffield, presents two studies of Grosz’s work published in the portfolios of left wing publisher Malik Verlag in 1920s Germany. 

Ecce Homo, (Latin for Behold the Man), contains 84 black and white drawings and 16 watercolours showing a society in 1923 pulled between the grips of Fascism and Communism.

Friedrichstrass
Friedrichstrass

A time of hyper-inflation, it was also a time of social and political ambiguity, and so a circus for Grosz to conjure street scenes of underworld seediness, racketeering and criminality,  an emergent noveau-riche, and demobbed soldiers.

On the threshold
On the threshold

Prosecution for obscenity soon followed and the Ecce Homo printing plates were destroyed.  Later public burning of the books and portfolios was instructed by the Nazis in May 1933.

A second portfolio Hintergrund was published in 1928 and distributed to the audience of an anti-war play by Erwin Piscator, entitled The Good Solider Schwejk.

The absolute monarchist
The absolute monarchist

Grosz collaborated with Piscator designing sets, masks, costumes, and projections,  which together with the portfolio, painted a very anti-military tone.

Grosz and Piscator were brought to trial for blasphemy and defamation of the German military in the longest trial of pre-Nazi German history, and were acquitted.

Trio
Trio

It was the image of a crucified Christ wearing a gas mask and military boots that landed them in it.

George Grosz: The Big No will be at the Sheffield Institute of the Arts Gallery, Sheffield Hallam, 153 Arundel Street, S1 2NU,  from 17 March-15 April

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