George Grosz ( American, born Germany, 1893 - 1959 )
In 1936, the year this watercolor was created, George Grosz returned to the portfolio format, used with such success in Berlin, for the publication of sixty-four lithographs describing the troubled period between the end of World War I and the establishment of a fascist state in Germany. In his harrowing drawings for the portfolio, titled Interregnum, Grosz narrates the process by which the growing militarism of German culture overtook the public realm, transforming citizens into nascent soldiers.
Grosz devoted several of the plates in Interregnum to the infamous imprisonment and death of his friend Eric Mühsam, a leftist poet and playwright, at the hands of the Nazis. Mühsam was arrested in February 1933, just weeks after Grosz's own escape to New York. He was brutally tortured and eventually murdered at the Oranienburg concentration camp the following year. When this news reached the German emigre community in New York, Grosz shocked friends with his apparently callous dismissal of Mühsam's fate as the inevitable consequence of his political idealism.
The Interregnum drawings, however, reveal how deeply Grosz had internalized the news of Mühsam's death. "I've been working very hard, turned out a number of 'political' drawings with scenes from Hitlerboys' concentration camps," Grosz wrote to Wieland Herzfelde, his old Berlin publisher, in March 1935. "But I can't exhibit them over here, nor do I want to...it is enough for me if I can get rid of these nightmarish, hideous scenes by setting them down on paper. I've drawn several scenes dealing with the death of Mühsam—that is, dealing with the theme of the eternally and incessantly abused human individual."
Heather MacDonald, Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2012), 25-27.