George Grosz

1893-1959, German

"New York, Downtown Manhattan"

Watercolor on Michallet paper under glass
Signed lower right: Grosz, numbered verso: (10), watermark for Michallet lower right corner, titled on letter of authenticity
23.25" H x 18.25" W

  • Provenance: Studio of the artist, Bayside, Long Island, New York, 1933
    Private Collection
    Sale: Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco/Los Angeles, October 26, 1995, Lot 2429
    Property of a Rancho Mirage Collection
  • Notes: This lot is accompanied by a letter from Ralph Jentsch confirming the authenticity and the inclusion of the present work in the forthcoming catalogue rasiosnne of works on paper by George Grosz.

    German-born artist George Grosz (1893-1959) would also be considered an activist by today's standards due to his politically-charged satirical cartoons that were critical of the Weimar German government and its aristocratic society. In 1924 and 1928 he was prosecuted by the authorities for making work that was deemed pornographic and blasphemous. His outspokenness made life difficult for Grosz in his native country. Eventually, he began to receive threats from his own studio assistants! Grosz's figurative style of elevated caricature is what he is most known for even though he had exceptional drawing skills that may have helped land him a teaching job at Art Students League in New York. In 1932, and without hesitation, he accepted the position and relocation in order to protect his family. Subsequently, he ended his public criticism of society and politics. Although a quote made later in life suggests that he had not entirely given up on his strong political opinions:

    "My motto was now to give offence to none and be pleasing to all… Anyone who plans to get ahead and make money would do well to have no character at all. The second rule for fitting in is to think everything beautiful!? Everything, that is to say, including things that are not beautiful in reality."

    Ralph Jentsch provided the following information about the present work:
    "Grosz' enthusiasm for America, which went back to his childhood, had changed from a youthful craze for the country into a conscious aversion to hated Germany, and finally led to emigration in 1933. Grosz had left Berlin with a heavy heart, but he was already well known in New York when he settled there in 1933. Dinner invitations widened his social connections and solo exhibitions mounted by leading galleries acquainted the public with the work he produced in the U.S. Major figures in American public life and society were already familiar with the man and his work, and this contributed to his popularity. Journalist and successful Hollywood script writer Ben Hecht, for example, had met Grosz in Berlin already in 1919. The same year, the writer Dos Passos had come across books by Grosz in Paris, and Ernest Hemingway possessed a number of watercolors by him. In fact, with his move to America, Grosz started a new career, becoming one of the most important living American artists.

    Grosz was fascinated by New York, by its architecture and streets, its people and the way of living. Having been living in the metropolis Berlin since 1912, and having been used to the turbulent life of a big city, Grosz fell immediately in love with New York when he arrived there in 1932 for the first time in order to teach during the summer months at the Art Students League and when he settled there at the beginning of 1933 for good.

    With his early Manhattan views of the years 1932-1934, Grosz continues in America the tradition of city views and street scenes from his Berlin years that played an important role in his oeuvre of the years 1925 to 1930. But Grosz did not transpose his Berlin visions and memories to the big city of New York he explored, but took all the impressions and the American way of life as he experienced them here and as they were.

    In this watercolor, Grosz depicts a typical street scene downtown Manhattan with brownstone houses and their fi e pes, and a high rise building in the background. The street is busy with cars and people a mg by. In the middle of the picture one can detect part of the elevated train track. Grosz pr es his excellent mastery of watercolor technique by working wet into wet. Only few lines of· mark the basic composition, while the rest of this fascinating scene is done with sure brus trokes of watercolor, wet into wet."
  • Condition: Generally good condition. Toning to the paper. The paper is rippled along the left edge. A .25" tear lower left. Tape remnants from a previous mounting remain along the four edges verso. Hinged to the back mat with two pieces of paper tape along the upper edge.

    Frame: 38.25" H x 32.75" W x 1.5" D

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June 9, 2021 10:00 AM PDT
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