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George Grosz: Work of German artist on display at MET

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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Feb 2007 18:36    Onderwerp: George Grosz: Work of German artist on display at MET Reageer met quote

Grosz Point
By John Tozzi

Work of German artist who lived in Douglaston on display at Metropolitan Museum of Art
A German artist who skewered the excesses of the 1920s Weimar Republic and lived in Douglaston after he fled the Nazi regime is among the artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s" exhibit on view through Feb. 19.

George Grosz, a native of Berlin, was radicalized by the horrors he saw fighting in World War I. A communist and a pacifist, his grotesque sketches and oil paintings of figures in German culture in the 1920s earned him the scorn of the rising Nazi party. Grosz fled Germany in 1932 and eventually settled at a house at 202 Shore Rd. in Douglaston, where his friend and fellow German expatriate Erwin Piscator, a director, also lived.

"Here was a political refugee who dwelt amongst the residents of Douglaston," said Bill Sievers, a vice president of the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, which organized a lecture on Grosz's Douglaston connection in conjunction with the Met.

Born in 1893, Grosz worked as an illustrator for Kaiser Wilhelm before the war, according a Time magazine article from 1942. But he was drafted to the front lines of the German army during World War I and was confined in an insane asylum in 1917.

Grosz's art in Germany in the 1920s was a reaction to his experience of the violence and shock of the war. One of his paintings in "Glitter and Doom," the 1926 "Pillars of Society," shows exaggerated representations of clergy, politicians and soldiers. In the background, flames pour from a gutted building while figures in the foreground are oblivious. One chugs a glass of beer with one hand and holds a saber in the other.

The painting is a characteristic critique of a decadent era, caught between the shattering chaos of World War I and the much darker violence that would follow in Germany as the Nazis seized power.

"His work was aimed at ridiculing the German bourgeoisie and later the Nazis when he was in Germany," said Kay MacDermott, a vice president of the historical society.

It's unclear when exactly Grosz settled in Douglaston. A Time article from 1939 said he lived there at the time with his wife and two children. He became an American citizen the year before.

Grosz's work became more mellow once he left Germany. In 1942, he told Time, "I had been too nervous, too vain, too ambitious, now I can sit in the dunes and feel humble and shy and say a little prayer."

The house where he and Piscator lived was eventually purchased by a third artist, Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, who had studied in Germany and knew Grosz and Piscator. Grosz moved to Huntington, L.I., in the mid-1940s, and eventually went back to Germany in 1952, but Arrau remained in the Shore Road home until shortly before his death in 1991.

"The real interesting thing about this is this one residence of 202 Shore Road was occupied by three cultural luminaries," Sievers said.

Although "Glitter and Doom" closes Feb. 19, one of Grosz's major works, "Eclipse of the Sun," will be on view at the Met through October. It is on loan from the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington.

Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.
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