Title: Der Raeuber [The Robber]
Ink over graphite on paper
Dimensions: Image: 24 x 19 1/4 inches (61 x 48.9 cm)
Acquired through the University Purchase Fund
“What can I say about the First World War, a war in which I served as an infantryman, a war I hated at the start and to which I never warmed as it proceeded? I had grown up in a humanist atmosphere, and war to me was never anything but horror, mutilation and senseless destruction, and I knew that many great and wise people felt the same way about it.”
—George Grosz, A Small Yes & A Big No, 1955
Unlike many artists of his generation, George Grosz did not approach the war with the nationalistic fervor of many of his countrymen—he was fundamentally opposed to it. Nevertheless, he volunteered for military service in November 1914, thus pre-empting conscription, and served as a machine gunner on the Western Front. He was discharged on health grounds early in 1916, on the understanding that he might be recalled and sent back to the front. In a characteristically provocative gesture that gave voice to his contempt for Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany, he anglicized his name from Georg Groß to George Grosz in 1916, arguably the worst year of the four-year conflict. Drafted again in 1917, he was discharged as “permanently unfit” after a nervous breakdown and committed to an asylum for the rest of the war.
Deeply affected by his wartime experience, Grosz was left accusatory and romantic, visionary and traumatized in equal measure. He was a keen observer of postwar Germany and highly critical of the bourgeois philistinism of his time, as can be seen in this drawing.
In 1932, deeply antagonistic to Hitler’s uncompromising militarism and National Socialism, Grosz was one of the first German artists to attack the regime. In that year he emigrated to America and became a citizen in 1938. ("'The War to End All Wars': Artists and World War I," curated by Nancy E. Green and presented at the Johnson Museum, January 21-June 11, 2017)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.