George Grosz - Metropolis

I had grown up in a humanist atmosphere, and war to me was never anything but horror, mutilation and senseless destruction…

Times of political and social struggle inspire a reactive creativity. Citizens and artists used culture to assimilate into a form of social normality, removed from the visceral horror of war and upheaval.

Painted in 1917 following George Grosz’s release from the German army after a nervous breakdown, Metropolis conveys the anxiety and nervous energy of the expanding modern city. Depressed and disillusioned he saw humanity as corrupt and Berlin as Sodom packed with criminals, whores and cripples. A committed Communist, he channelled his rage into bitter, confrontational work.

Robert Hughes

In Grosz’s Germany, everything and everybody is for sale. All human transactions, except for the class solidarity of the workers, are poisoned. The world is owned by four breeds of pig: the capitalist, the officer, the priest and the hooker, whose other form is the sociable wife. He was one of the hanging judges of art.

Grosz employs a Cubist vocabulary to depict the hardened, cruel personas of people during wartime.  The burnished glare of red and orange echoes the ferocity, passion and bloodshed of conflict. The image hinges on a central vertical line created by the edge of the building and the intersecting axis of two streets, signalling the transitional epoch of the post-war vacuum and the inherent social conflicts of such tumultuous times.

Metropolis is housed in Thyssen-BornemiszaMuseum in Madrid, Spain

-Alice Clinch

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