George Grosz's 'Anti-Semite' headed to London Jewish gallery

George Grosz's 'Anti-Semite' headed to London Jewish gallery
George Grosz. 'Anti-Semite.' (1934)

If one knew nothing more about German-born artist George Grosz (1893-1959) than his undated pen-ink-drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago titled German War Decorations (one of 25 pieces by the artist in the AIC collection), one might guess that Grosz was glorifying Nazism.

The illustration, which offers a still-life view of Nazi-German medals, has all the typical makings of Antisemitica — that is art that has anti-Semitic content — in its glorification of the Nazi party and its symbols. But if one examines the rest of Grosz’s work, one quickly sees that the artist was a fierce opponent of all things Nazi.

Grosz’s The Lecture (also called The Anti-Semite, or elsewhere, Letter to an Anti-Semite) is slated to be unveiled Jan. 30, 2013, at the Ben Uri — London Jewish Museum of Art.

[Read about a controversial show of crucifixions at Ben Uri.]

The ink-and-watercolor on paper illustration shows a speaker gesturing toward a poster that shows — according to the Ben Uri Gallery — the profile of the “radical Jewish writer Erich Mühsam who was murdered in the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934.” But upon closer inspection, the man in question — Mühsam — appears to be the figure just above the speaker’s right hand, rather than the man portrayed in profile.

Some of the other forms are tougher to decipher. An elongated nose may hint at Nazi eugenics, while an edition of the 3rd-to-6th century Jewish legal treatise, Talmud, features some sort of knife or letter opener and a bottle of some sort.

Please leave a comment below if you have any insight into what some of the symbols are supposed to represent.

Leave a comment