Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
The traumatic experience of the war made George Grosz a misanthropist, but also an ideologically committed painter, an agitator who used art as a weapon. Therefore, when the Berlin Dada movement began to germinate, he signed up unconditionally. The Berlin strain of Dadaism was more determined by political events than that of any other city and gradually sharpened its radical stances. At the Café des Westerns, Grosz, John Heartfield and his brother Wieland Herzfelde frequented the circle of Richard Huelsenbeck, who, after belonging to the Zurich Dadaist group in 1916, had returned to Berlin with the intention of continuing his project there. Grosz also joined them when they became affiliated as a group with the recently established German Communist party in 1919 (although he subsequently gradually lost faith in the ideology) and played an active role in the First International Dada Fair organised at the end of June 1920 at the small Berlin gallery belonging to the collector and dealer Otto Burchard.
The present collage by Grosz, which was shown at the legendary Fair with the title of Tatlinistischer Plan, in reference to Tatlin, brings together a series of unconnected images in a geometric space that recalls the urban spaces of metaphysical painting. The nude with a hat in the foreground, which represents a prostitute, is connected with the female figure in another contemporary collage: Daum Marries her Pedantic Automaton George in May 1920. John Heartfield is Very Glad of It, a double portrait of Grosz and his wife Eva. This powerful image is combined with various collages, such as the head of a bearded man, a cabaret actress and an architectural portico. As Valeriano Bozal points out, with all these fragments Grosz provides us with “a tragic panorama populated by people from the most varied walks of life, in which all possess a common feature: their everyday nature.”