The Crucified Ham

MAKER:
Artist

George Grosz ( American, born German, 1893 - 1959 )

DATE:
c. 1930s–1950s
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General Description

The brutal pessimism of George Grosz's wartime work reached its crescendo in the series of "stick-men" paintings Grosz made in the postwar years. In these haunting scenes, wraithlike figures engage in brutal acts of terror, or stand, still and horrified, in an apocalyptic landscape. Grosz described the stick men as "mutilated and wilted dreams or shall I say memorials of long ago." [1]

The stick-men images have often been described as Grosz's response to the end of World War II and the immediate postwar period. In the final months of the war, Grosz had lost his mother and aunt in the Allied bombing of Berlin, adding personal loss to the larger horrors of the end of the war, including the full revelation of the atrocities of the concentration camps and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, Grosz's family and friends reported on the conditions of brutal penury and starvation in Berlin, which Grosz and his wife attempted to relieve with regular shipments of food. The grotesque stick men, attacking their victims with forks and can openers, and the images' conflation of flesh and meat, seem to collapse all the horrors of the war into an unending, nightmarish landscape.

[1] George Grosz, "On the Stickmen," no. 1052, George Grosz Archive.

Excerpt from

Heather MacDonald, Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2012), 28-29.