George Grosz was born Georg Ehrenfried Gross in Berlin on July 26, 1893. From 1909 to 1911, he trained at the Dresda Fine Art Academy, and until 1917 he intermittently attended the Art School in Berlin, pausing in 1913 to take classes at Colarossi’s painting school in Paris. He enlisted and served in the army from 1914 to 1915 and again for a short period in 1917. His drawings, caricatures, and paintings produced during World War I criticized the social corruption of Germany at the time, capitalism, prostitution, the Prussian Military class, and the middle class. Many of these drawings were published in satirical journals or in portfolios for which the artist was often prosecuted.
Grosz had his first solo exhibition in 1920 at the Neue Kunst/Hans Goltz gallery in Munich and took part in the First International Dada Exhibition in Berlin. His contributions to the Dada movement were significant; along with John Heartfield and Raoul Hausmann, Grosz was considered the inventor of the photomontage technique. During the 1920s he joined the Novembergruppe and the New Objectivity movement but eventually moved away from this style to experiment with magical realism, which resulted in a series of landscapes and still-life paintings. In 1933, in response to the rise of National Socialism, Grosz decided to move to the U.S., where he taught at the Art Students’ League in New York and opened a painting school with artist Maurice Stern. In this period he painted many large-scale watercolors of the city, as well as apocalyptic scenes reminiscent of the dire situation in Germany.
In 1937 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and produced oil paintings of apocalyptic landscapes and war scenes. The following year he became an American citizen. Grosz was the subject of a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 1941, and the show toured across America. In the 1940s, despite his widespread recognition, his financial situation forced him to reluctantly resume teaching. In 1946 he published his autobiography and returned to Berlin in 1959, where he died on July 5 of a heart attack.