Description & Technical information

The summary style whereby Grosz first sets down dynamic figures – often caught at different moments of their movement – does not just illustrate the tempo of the metropolis. This style slices through the backcloth of the world stage like a razor, from top to bottom, and lays bare ‘backstage and wings’ in all their horror. And the caricature only gets tougher. For those who still see officers or bankers as human, he draws them as the pigs they are. Grosz adds fuel to the fire of social warfare. – The fascination that Grosz had as a child for the circus never completely left him. During a longer stay in Paris he visited the Cirque Medrano and the Cirque Fratellini (among others), and presumably saw both jugglers and drew them at work there. Grosz was not the only avant-garde artist to appreciate the circus as an authentic amusement, embedded in a ‘physical’ tradition. – His friend Carl Einstein writes in 1926 (!) how the circus inspired Grosz in a moral sense: ‘In the circus a remnant of handicraft purity was still alive, there the acrobats still tried to free themselves of the laws of gravitation in an honest way, with a hundred percent risk of getting killed. That was more serious, more skillful than all that whining idealism. A vague or incomplete performance had death as a paycheck. From these artists Grosz learned to see through today’s great swindle in a puritanical way. Many of his drawings charm precisely by dint of this ethical clairvoyance.’ In around 1926 Grosz comes under the influence of constructivism, of Carrà and de Chirico, and starts making effective images in another way. The human figure becomes a collective type, a geometric standard-model. What matters for Grosz, however, it’s not about a ‘modern classicism’ but a social-critical toolkit to take-on an enemy that occupied nearly the whole terrain. – The jugglers Tato and May certainly made a hit with Grosz with their machine-like movements, and that’s why they get center-stage and a sort of dreamy look – hand servants of childlike illusion, far removed from the social horror.

Date:  1926
Period:  20th century
Origin:  Germany
Medium: Watercolor, Pen, India ink on paper
Signature: Signed Grosz lower right; numbered, titled and dated N° 16/Tato & May/ 28 Juni 1926 lower left, with George Grosz Estate stamp on the reverse.

Dimensions: 50.7 x 36.5 cm (20 x 14³/₈ inches)
Provenance: Estate of the artist
Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin
The Neo Art Centre, London
Forum Gallery, New York
La Boetie Inc., New York
James Kirkman, London
Private collection

Literature: Frankfurter Illustrierte Zeitung, 28 June 1926, ill.
Exhibitions: New York, DC Moore Gallery, Selected European Works on Paper, 1996
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints