George Grosz – The Chicken in his Head

Ostracized, Traumatized, Indemnified

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Berlin

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George Grosz, Das unheimliche Huhn V, 1958, Privatbesitz © Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019 © Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Vernissage
25.08.2019 11:00

The Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin presents the last graphic series by George Grosz.

In the 1920s George Grosz (1893–1959) was one of the best-known artists in Germany. He was an astute, almost clairvoyant observer of dramatic events in the Weimar Republic. He was warning against the demagogue Hitler as early as 1923. His relentless campaign against the NSDAP and his portrayals of poverty, violence, and sexuality made him a pet enemy of the Nazis.

In March 1933 Grosz was one of the first to be earmarked for expatriation. During the defamation campaign “Degenerate Art”, about 300 of his works were confiscated from museums and public collections, and blacklisted. Many were destroyed or remain lost ever since.

In the 1950s, in response to the sheer magnitude of personal injury and pecuniary loss suffered under the National Socialist regime, the Federal Republic of Germany adopted a “restitution policy”, initially for deported Jews and their descendants: “material restitution” was intended to indemnify pecuniary losses, and “moral compensation” to recompensate for pain and suffering of a non-pecuniary nature (including ruined careers and mental or physical illness).

George and Eva Grosz had suffered considerable financial losses and mental traumas, and these exerted an impact on their lives after the war. In 1950 Eva Grosz applied for restitution through lawyer Annemarie Kramer, hoping to recover her share in the parental home stolen by the Nazis. As George Grosz was loathe to confront his physical and mental problems, his own compensation procedure was not initiated until 1955, again through Eva. Repeated requests for the procedure to be speeded up due to the artist’s poor health eventually mobilized Dr Rudolf Omansen, a committed physician who headed the medical department at the Bureau of Compensation in West Berlin.

The compensation procedure triggered a friendship between Grosz and Omansen that lasted until the artist’s death. The two men were bound not only by mutual friends and political views, but by their love of art and culture. Omansen was also creative: in his spare time, he wrote short stories and novels.

In 1958 Grosz drew a series of illustrations for Omansen’s story Das unheimliche Huhn [The Uncanny Chicken]. It is about an imaginary chicken that drives a renowned professor crazy: a parable for psychological traumas of the kind Grosz suffered after his works were blacklisted and partially destroyed by the Nazis.

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Berlin
Fasanenstraße 24
10719 Berlin

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