Friday, February 15, 2008

George Grosz and the Weimar Years

Through his caricature drawings (and I am referring to the period until the late 20s), Georg Ehrenfried Groß managed to create a vivid and fascinating picture of the Weimar years in Berlin depicting the four pillar society of the capitalist, the soldier/officer, the priest and the hooker in all their sleaze and depravity. In his famous drawing collections The Face of the Ruling Class and Gott mit uns (1921), as well as Ecce Homo (1922), Grosz depicts a bleak society of fat profiteers and greedy capitalists, smug bourgeoisie, drinkers, war-crippled dregs and lechers contrasting to the hollow-faced factory labourers, the poor, and the unemployed. His unrelenting attack on militarism and his acid critisism of Germany's decadent society earned him the nazi title of “Cultural Bolshevist Number One". He left Germany, in 1932, moved to the United States and ended his life accidentally when he fell down a flight of stairs in a return visit to his beloved/behated Berlin in 1959.

Mario Vargas Llosa in his essay "You nourish yourself with everything that you hate" finds similarities between the poet Charles Baudelaire and the painter George Grosz. Grosz, Germany's poète maudit according to Llosa, shared Baudelaire's romantic fascination for underground, outsider characters - criminals, gangsters, suicide victims, the proletariat and whores.

In my dream world, George Grosz illustrates works of Baudelaire... As Rita Hayworth says in the film Gilda "it's kind of a terrific combination". Isn't it?

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