Strassenszene, Berlin stamped 'GROSZ' (lower right); stamped with the artist's estate stamp and numbered '3/85/3' (verso) pen and black ink on paper 60 x 46.2cm (23 5/8 x 18 3/16in). Executed in 1925
PROVENANCE The artist's estate, 1959. Mercury Gallery, London, 1998. Purchased from the above by the present owner.
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.
By 1925 George Grosz (who had anglicized his first name in 1916 in protest at German nationalism) had reached the height of his powers as a 'portraitist' of contemporary Germany. His savagely drawn satires on the hypocrisy and venality of Berlin life were equally biting as caricatures of the moral bankruptcy of the ruling classes and of the superficial civility of the bourgeoisie. Driven largely by an indiscriminate anger he nonetheless saw himself in the tradition of social commentary that descended from William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier.
In 1924 he was given an exhibition by the powerful dealer Alfred Flechtheim in Berlin. Flechtheim was the leading impresario of the International Avant-Garde in Germany, and had been the first to exhibit the modern French Masters. To give an exhibition to a contemporary German artist was a rare honour reflective of Grosz's growing reputation. A contract with such a significant gallery also had an impact on Grosz's work, marking the emergence of a new and more 'artistic' strand alongside the unruly satirical side. This combination can be seen in the present work. The clearly drawn and carefully balanced composition shows a new poise, but with a characteristically biting message apparent in the expressive faces of the protagonists. In the same year Carl Reissner published a major collection of Grosz's drawings as Der Spiesserspiegel (The Mirror of the Philistine), a group of satires of bourgeois life into which the present work fits neatly.