Londons Ben Uri Gallery
has announced that it has bought a dramatic watercolour by distinguished German artist George Grosz. The painting captures the horrors of the Second World War.
George Grosz (1893 1959) is renowned for challenging the politically corrupt regime and the decadence in Germany in the 1920s and early thirties through his sardonic and cutting satirical compositions. He was a modern day pioneer of using almost graffiti like illustrations to challenge decadence and the establishment. Even though not Jewish Grosz correctly feared for his life and fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and soon after his arrival in New York his work was declared degenerate in Germany.
Interrogation (1936-38) was purchased for £37,000 for the Gallery with help from membership charity the Art Fund, which gave £20,000, along with support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Montgomery Gallery in San Francisco and private donors.
The detailed, evocative watercolour depicts a horrific scene of a man being tortured by Nazi soldiers. Painted in a free, illustrative style, it shows off Groszs skilful use of the medium and his flair for capturing action and drama.
Interrogation is one of only three known fully executed watercolours of this subject painted in the years 1936 to 1939 following his emigration to the USA in 1933. In this important but deeply disturbing example, Grosz shows the brutality exactly as he understood it.
Groszs oeuvre is greatly under-represented in UK public collections with only 15 examples of his work available for public view. Aside from illustrated publications, only six of these works are housed in London museums.The British Museum and the V&A have one print each. Tate has four original works on paper from 1916, 1919, 1925 and 1930.
This example will be included in the museums Holocaust Learning Pack as part of our Art in the Open programme articulating all the social history narrative it stimulates. The work will be a major feature in the museums planned ground breaking exhibition surveying German, Russian and British war artists and those like Grosz, Levy, and Chagall who used their art to comment from the side.
Jonathan Horwich, Chairman of the Museums Acquisitions Committee said: Grosz is one of the first half of the twentieth centurys most influential artists and led the concept of using graphic satire to motivate and communicate political views and challenge the establishment. This work has all the characteristics of Grosz at his best and is a world class example which matches the museums principal collecting criteria. It is a great coup for Ben Uri and London to acquire such a rare and visually compelling work.
The painting is to be unveiled at the gallery on 8 December.