Medium: Ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions: 46 x 59 cm
Date: c. 1936-38
Inscription: "un kannste uns ma wat komisches vortanzen Jenosse, det haste doch so scheen in Moskau jelernt" (Berlin dialect). "And, can't you dance something entertaining for us comrade, you learned this so beautifully in Moscow, indeed".
Acquired in 2010 with the assistance of the Art Fund, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Morven and Michael Heller, Judit and George Weisz, Agnes and Edward Lee, and The Montgomery Gallery, San Francisco
Interrogation is one of two works in the Ben Uri collection referencing the death of Grosz’s friend, the radical Jewish writer and anarchist Erich Mühsam (1878-1934), who was tortured and murdered in Oranienburg concentration camp. Grosz depicts this scene with characteristic savagery underlined by the casually brutal attitude of the torturers and the free-flowing blood. Both these works are part of a disturbing series commemorating the writer, five of which (including a version of Interrogation) were included in Grosz’s final political portfolio, Interregnum, published in America in 1936. Although Mühsam’s face is recognizable in a number of these works, his name never appears: as Juergin M Judin has observed, ‘For him, the fate of Erich Mühsam represented the fate of all victims of the Nazi regime.
Georg Ehrenfried Gross was born in Berlin in 1893, studying at the Dresden Academy (1909-11), Berlin’s School of Arts and Crafts (1912-14) and the Atelier Colarossi, Paris (1913). He served twice during the First World War: having enlisted in 1914, he was discharged on medical grounds, rejoining in 1917 and again being discharged as unfit. In 1916 he changed his name to George Grosz to indicate his admiration for American life and culture and from 1917-20 he was a prominent member of the German anti-Bourgeois Dada movement.
Post-war Grosz channeled his fierce anti-militarism into satirical, politically excoriating works, and was repeatedly prosecuted on the grounds of obscenity and blasphemy. In 1933, only days before Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship, he moved to New York to avoid persecution. He was stripped of his German citizenship, some of his books and portfolios were destroyed and his work was later included in the infamous 1937 ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition.
Grosz became a naturalised American citizen in 1938, but returned to post-war Berlin in 1959, where he died shortly afterwards.
Born: 1893 Berlin, Germany
Died: 1959 Berlin, Gemany