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  • Georg Grosz: The Stick Men – Intimate grievance and an engrossing exhibition


Georg Grosz: The Stick Men – Intimate grievance and an engrossing exhibition

Deeply pessimistic and bleakly satirical, 'Georg Grosz: The Stick Men' at Das Kleine Grosz Museum gives an honest look at the artist's life and work.

Disturbed While Eating, 1947, watercolour and ink on paper, 48 x 64.6 cm, Judin Collection

In the late 1940s, deeply pessimistic about mankind’s future in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the use of atomic weaponry by the US – his home since escaping the Nazis in 1933 – Georg Grosz painted ‘The Stick Men’. Pallid grey, with occasionally-sharp accents of colour, the series repeatedly depicts the brutal capacity of a wealthy, engorged few to crush expression and individual freedoms.

In The Enemy of the Rainbow, a grizzly moustachioed figure stares with contempt at what was already a symbol of union and tolerance: a rainbow flag. As is so often the case, the dehumanised figures that navigate through this brutal, monochromatic world are enlivened only by the pursuit of vengeance. There’s another, more intimate grievance in this engrossing exhibition.

The Enemy of the Rainbow, 1946, (From the series The Stick Men), watercolour and ink on paper, 64.5 × 48 cm, Judin Collection.

Grosz, a figurative painter, struggled to contend with the rising influence of Abstract Expressionism. In the dismal and crudely rendered The Grey Man Dances – likely a self-portrait – the sewn-up mouth and dissected stomach suggest the artist’s own sense of futility, unable to adapt his visual language to a postwar world. Despairing in tone, its bleak humour is hard to take, as is the artist’s palpable sense of self-pity. ★★★★

  • Georg Grosz: The Stick Men, through 27 November 2023, Das Kleine Grosz Museum, Schöneberg, details.