The history of Western art is not so empty of violent images as to render this one either surprising or tasteless. Martyrdoms, complete with disembowellings and decapitations, were a mainstay of Christian iconography. Nonetheless, the unflinching George Grosz does shock with this matter-of-fact portrayal of a modern crime of passion. In its very ordinariness of observed detail it is disturbing; as though an alarm clock and a lucky horseshoe had the same weight as a bloodied hatchet and a headless corpse. And where is the victim's head? This, the most crucial detail of all, is missing. Conjecture as to its whereabouts is one of the most unsettling aspects of this gruesome print. The timid murderer and presumptive rapist, aghast only at his own momentary strength, washes his hands in a basin inadequate for such an act of hygiene. Associated with both the Dada and the expressionist movements, Grosz was a vigilant anti-militarist and humanitarian who applied his art like a scalpel to the ills of society. His particular target was the moral corruption of his native country, Germany, in the period between the two world wars.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999.
Dückers E 43
42.5 x 33.8 cm sheet (irreg.)
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. sheet, pencil "GROSZ / 1917".
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 1984
Not on display
© George Grosz/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Shown in 6 exhibitions
The edge of the world, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jul 1985–25 Aug 1985
Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 1986–23 Nov 1986
Prints in Germany 1880-1940, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 28 Oct 1989–07 Jan 1990
Modernism 1900-1950: prints and drawings from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Jul 1994–25 Sep 1994
Bauhaus and Expressionism: German prints and drawings from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, 04 Mar 2005–15 May 2005
The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910-1937:
Referenced in 6 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. cat.no. 210
Nicholas Draffin, Prints in Germany 1880-1940, Sydney, 1989, 4. no catalogue numbers
Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 150 (colour illus.).
Renée Free, Modernism 1900-1950: prints and drawings from the collection, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 78-92, Sydney, 1999, 89 (illus.).
Jacqueline Strecker (Editor), The mad square: modernity in German art 1910-37, Sydney, 2011, 37 (illus.).