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Western art

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Murder in Ackerstrasse



George Grosz


26 Jul 1893 - 06 Jul 1959


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.




Media category


Materials used



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

Accession number


Artist information

George Grosz

Works in the collection


Shown in 6 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. 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.).