Premonition or memory? George Grosz’s Remembering

Nazi violence forced many to leave Germany in the 1930s

George Grosz, Remembering, 1937, oil on canvas, 71.2 x 91.76 cm (Minneapolis Institute of Art, © Estate of George Grosz)

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Grosz, Remembering

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Key points

  • The persecution of political adversaries and marginalized groups of people began years before the start of World War II. Witnessing the rise of fascism during the 1930s, many artists and intellectuals sensed the dangers of remaining in Germany and emigrated to America.
  • In 1937, the opening of the Degenerate Art exhibition represented a fascist attack on art and culture. It included work by many artists who had been politically engaged and often critical of the National Socialist party. Meant to ridicule the international avant-garde, the exhibition highlighted modernism as an example of a sick (or degenerate) society.
  • As an expressionist artist, George Grosz combines elements of both abstraction and representational figure painting to evoke sensations of reflection and memory.

Go deeper

See this work in the Minneapolis Institute of Art

See images from the Degenerate Art exhibition and read more about it

Learn about Germany in the years between the world wars

Read the press release for the 1941 exhibit of George Grosz’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Learn more about the history of German immigrants in America

Read about America’s immigration policies during World War II and the U.S. response to the Holocaust

 

More to think about

With the Degenerate Art exhibition, the Nazis openly criticized artists who expressed differing political viewpoints or challenged artistic traditions with modernist experiments. Why do you think totalitarian governments would think it necessary to censor and suppress the work of modern artists?

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