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This object is a member of the following groups (click any group name to view all objects in that group):Themes: Gender
Themes: MLC Portfolio: American Identity
George Grosz (1893–1959) arrived in New York in 1932 to teach summer school at the Art Students League. When the artist returned to his native Germany the following fall, he found that political conditions in Berlin had deteriorated during his absence. As a result, he and his family emigrated to the United States in January of 1933, just eighteen days before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
Safe from the horrors of Nazi Germany, Grosz was optimistic about building a new career in America which he viewed as a country filled with hope and endless opportunity. Grosz was so taken with the diversity of New York that between 1932 and 1935 his work is almost entirely devoted to the celebration of metropolitan street life. Ina letter to a friend he wrote, "New York-I love this town. I have seen tramps sleeping on newspapers in Union Square . . . I have seen Negroes, Chinese, red-haired Irishmen, sailors; Broadway aglow at night; the huge department stores; workers in overalls suspended between steel girders. . . Wall Street and shouting brokers at the stock exchange . . . I have seen obscene shows, where sweet girls stripped to the applause of the men . . . this town is full of pictures and contrasts." Armed with sketchbook, he explored the city by foot, bus, and subway taking notes of all he saw. Drawing in pencil, Grosz would often jot down notes about color and color combinations. The quick line sketches were then transformed into finished, detailed watercolors back at his studio. This portrait is a finished version of a drawing executed while Grosz was riding the subway..
These largely apolitical slices of city life stand in strong contrast to Grosz's brutally satirical drawings, oils, and watercolors produced in pre-Nazi Berlin. "Once I had settled in the States for good and decided never to go back to my former home, I wanted to discard my 'German' personality along with my citizenship, the way one would discard a worn-out suit. I was so bitter that I decided to forget who and what I had been and leave everything behind me. In other words, start a new American life." As his biographer Hans Hess has written, Grosz was known as a political satirist and was expected to continue to satirize. Yet satire requires that one both understand the scene and dislike it. As a newcomer, Grosz did not yet understand the American scene and thus far he liked it. The early watercolors such as Lady on the Subway are examples of Grosz's coming to terms with American culture and his fascination with his new home.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:Ideas and Notations: Masterworks on Paper from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/10/1992 - 8/2/1992
The Collection Grows: Selected Acquisitions 1990-92, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/8/1993 - 3/2/1993
Faces of the Addison: Portraits from the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/23/1994 - 7/31/1994
Andover Alumni Collectors, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/29/1995 - 7/30/1995
Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
Hair: Untangling a Social History, The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, 1/31/2004 - 6/6/204
Eye on the Collection: Views and Viewpoints, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2008 - 3/23/2008
Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
Muse [Phillips Academy Art 300], Addison Gallery of American Art, 3/8/2011 - 3/27/2011
People, Places, Things: Symbols of American Culture, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/4/2012 - 1/13/2013
Eye on the Collection: Artful Poses, Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/1/2014 - 3/30/2014
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