Adirondack landscape signed 'GROSZ' (lower left) and indistinctly inscribed 'Adirondack landscape' (lower right) watercolour and coloured inks on paper 50.9 x 35.6cm (20 1/16 x 14in). Executed in 1943
PROVENANCE Associated American Artists Galleries, New York. Avery Gallery, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Private collection, Dublin.
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Dr. Ralph Jentsch who will include it in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of works on paper by George Grosz.
Grosz had been fascinated by America and the 'Wild Frontier' described in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper and Carl May since his boyhood in the provincial backwater of Stolp in Pomerania: 'The mythical picture of America contained the schoolboy's dream of adventure, freedom, lawlessness and success' (H. Hess, George Grosz, London, 1974, p.10). This fascination continued throughout his life, and the ideal vision of America acted as a counterpoint to the hypocrisy and chaos he depicted so regularly in Berlin. He made his first visit to the United States in 1932, emigrating with his family in 1933 following the rise to power of the Nazi Party of which he had been an outspoken opponent.
This translation from the turbulent atmosphere of Berlin in the early 1930s to the comparative peace of the household Grosz established at Douglaston on Long Island had a marked effect on his artistic production. While outlets for satirical expression became more complicated, direct exposure to the 'Cult of America' had an unexpected impact on Grosz, as he wrote to Herbert Fiedler from New York 'Nature is rejuvenating like spring water. ... Formerly I was gripped by the hellish phantasm of the big city and ... the damned, avid faces of little men. ... Today I am rediscovering the world of my boyhood building in a willow tree a Red Indian look-out' (quoted in H. Hess, George Grosz, London, 1974, p.197).
Grosz spent August 1943 near Garnet Lake in the Lower Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York State. The trip produced a number of finished watercolours, including the present work, which reflect a positive turn in Grosz's American life. In the earlier part of the year the Museum of Modern Art had arranged a travelling exhibition, the New Yorker published a long and appreciative profile, which led to a number of commissions, and his friend Berthold Brecht arranged an exhibition of selected works in California.
This group of landscape drawings and watercolours also show a fascination for the work of earlier masters, notably the landscapes of the German Romantics made along the Baltic coast near Grosz's childhood home in Pomerania. They also show marked affinities with the masters of the Northern Renaissance. Grosz studied the technique of Hans Hoffman through the late 1930s, and his satirical compositions had long shown the influence of Hieronymous Bosch. The most remarkable comparison however, whether conscious or unconscious, is with Albrecht Dürer, most particularly the close relationship with the latter's watercolours of the Erlenstegener Forest east of Nuremberg of circa 1496, notably the Landscape with a woodland pool (London, British Museum, Sloane 5218-167).