Moeller Fine Art

George Grosz: Drawings for Esquire Magazine

George Grosz: Drawings for Esquire Magazine

George Grosz

The online viewing room features a rare collection of drawings that George Grosz (1893–1959) made for Esquire magazine between 1936–1939.

Esquire was launched in 1932 as a large-format publication with colorful illustrations alongside literary pieces and political articles by the most notable writers of the day. Grosz called the magazine a “very attractive advertisement for a clean, appetizing, super-modern country where everything was fresh and friendly and smiling in contrast to sour-faced Europe.”

Grosz had been enamored of America since his childhood in rural Germany. When in 1932 he was invited to teach for three months at the Art Students League in New York he eagerly accepted. Given that the country had existed in his mind for so many years, it is surprising that it took him so long to get there. Even more surprising is that when he landed on the other side of the Atlantic, reality actually matched up to his long-nurtured fantasy. Everything was wonderful.

As soon as Grosz returned to Germany, arriving on October 17, 1932, he realized that he would have to leave again as quickly as possible, for his name appeared prominently on several Nazi lists of undesirables. He managed to embark again for America on January 12, 1933, just two weeks before Hitler became Chancellor.

From September 1936 to January 1939, Grosz illustrated numerous short stories and articles published in Esquire. As he wrote in his autobiography, he "would dearly have loved to become an American illustrator, one of the select who works for a popular magazine....This was genuine art for the masses, art that could dispense with the high-flown rantings of art historians and the bombast of the critics."

After two years, the commissions dried up. Grosz put this down to a shift of fashion: Esquire and all the glossy magazines like it needed to look up-to-date, and by then his work was old hat. By his own account, his situation was deeply ironic. How strange that he, who years before in Germany "had really started out as an illustrator in the American sense of the word," should have failed to make the grade in America. But it was not as simple as that. In Germany, Grosz worked against the grain. He was opposed to pretty much everything, and it showed. In America, he was for the first time in his life positive, optimistic, and complimentary. However, as he wrote, "There remained an incomprehensible residue, a schizophrenic piece of myself that weighed me down as much as a heavy boulder." It is precisely this residue that makes these American illustrations so good.

Moeller Fine Art

Achim Moeller Ltd., founded in London in June 1972, moved to New York in October of 1984 as Moeller Fine Art Ltd. The gallery specializes in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century masterworks, and regularly organizes museum-quality exhibitions, including “From Daumier to Matisse: French Master Drawings from the John C. Whitehead Collection,” “Howard Wise: Exploring the New,” and “Between Friends: Giacomo Balla + Piero Dorazio,” “Lyonel Feininger + Mark Tobey.” Moeller Fine Art is the foremost gallery in the United States for works by German Expressionists and the Masters of the Bauhaus.

For nearly, fifty years, Achim Moeller, the gallery’s principal, has helped build important and substantial private and public collections that are coherent in concept, period, and quality. Moeller Fine Art also assists individuals and institutions with collection management, insurance valuation, tax and estate planning, and auction representation.

For further information, please contact +1 212 644 2133 or office@moellerfineart.com. To view highlights from the exhibition or to learn more about the artist, please visit our website.

Image Credit:

George Grosz (1893–1959), The Cheat's Remorse, 1937, Ink and chalk on paper, 18 x 23 1/2 in. (46 x 59 cm), Drawing for Esquire, October 1937, p. 75, for Morley Callaghan's story of the same title.

George Grosz (1893–1959)

The Cheat's Remorse

1937

18 x 23 1/2 in. (46 x 59 cm)

Ink and chalk on paper

Drawing for Esquire, October 1937, p. 75, for Morley Callaghan's story of the same title.

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

George Grosz (1893–1959)

Warrior's Return

1937

18 x 23 1/2 in. (46 x 59 cm)

Ink and chalk on paper

Drawing for Esquire, November 1937, p. 45, for Bendeit Thielen's story of the same title.

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

George Grosz (1893–1959), Warrior's Return, 1937, Ink and chalk on paper, 18 x 23 1/2 in. (46 x 59 cm), Drawing for Esquire, November 1937, p. 45, for Bendeit Thielen's story of the same title.

George Grosz (1893–1959)

A Gold Story

1937

23 1/3 x 18 in. (59 x 46 cm)

Ink and chalk on paper

Drawing for Esquire, February 1937, p. 48, for Jim Trully's story entitled Case of Convict.

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George Grosz (1893–1959)

The Silk Doll

1937

18 x 23 1/2 in. (46 x 59 cm)

Ink and chalk on paper

Drawing for Esquire, February 1937, p. 112, for Frank K. Kelly's story of the same title.

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

George Grosz (1893–1959), A Gold Story, 1937, Ink and chalk on paper 23 1/3 x 18 in. (59 x 46 cm), Drawing for Esquire, February 1937, p. 48, for Jim Trully's story entitled Case of Convict.

George Grosz (1893–1959)

Appeasement

c.1938

18 3/16 x 23 5/16 in. (46.1 x 59.2 cm)

Brush and ink and pencil

Drawing for Esquire

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Inquire
9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

George Grosz (1893–1959), The Silk Doll, 1937, Ink and chalk on paper, 18 x 23 1/2 in. (46 x 59 cm), Drawing for Esquire, February 1937, p. 112, for Frank K. Kelly's story of the same title.

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Inquire

Inquire
9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -
9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Inquire

Inquire
9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Chronology

1893 July 26, Georg Ehrenfried Groß born in Berlin, the son of Karl Ehrenfried Groß and Marie Wilhelmine Luise Groß, née Schultze.

1898 The family moves to Stolp in rural Pomerania.

1901 After his father's death the previous year, Grosz moves with his family back to Berlin.

1902 Returns to Stolp. Reading James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer, develops a lifelong enthusiasm for America.

1905 Earliest known sketchbook with cowboys and Indians.

1908 Expelled from school after reciprocating when he is slapped by a teacher. The school's drawing master encourages him to apply to the Königliche Kunstakademie (Royal Academy) in Dresden.

1910 Publication of his first drawing in Ulk, the satirical supplement of the Berliner Tageblatt.

1911 Receives the Honorary Commendation of the Königlich-Sächsische Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Saxon Academy of the Visual Arts) in Dresden.

1913 From August to November he studies life drawing at the Académie Filippo Colarossi, a private art school in Paris. Meets the French painter, Jules Pascin, whose spontaneous style of drawing he admires. Back in Berlin, he sees Italian Futurist and German Expressionist works in the "Ersten Deutschen Herbstsalon" (First German Autumn Salon) at Herwarth Walden's gallery, Der Sturm.

1914 The Reichstag votes unanimously to declare war. Grosz volunteers for the Army.

1915 In February he is hospitalized with a severe sinus infection and in May released as unfit for service. Meets the publisher Wieland Herzfelde in Ludwig Meidner's studio.

1916 Officially anglicizes the spelling of his name to George Grosz. Regularly visits the Café des Westens, the gathering place in Berlin of the artistic avant-garde. Begins work on the painting "Metropolis." Meets Eva Peter, his future wife, a fellow student at the Berlin School of Arts and Crafts.

1917 Works with the German painter, John Heartfield, Wieland Herzfelde's brother, on an animated propaganda film for the military. Publication by Malik-Verlag of Erste George-Grosz Mappe (First George-Grosz Portfolio).

1918 Exclusive contract with the Munich dealer Hans Goltz (who will represent Grosz until 1922). Makes Dada collages, some of them in collaboration with Heartfield. Grosz joins the Communist Party of Germany together with Erwin Piscator and the Herzfelde brothers. (He leaves the party in 1923, although he continues to attend meetings in the 1920s and contributes to the satirical Communist worker paper). Also joins the radical November Group of artists.

1919 During the so-called Spartacus revolution soldiers force their way into Grosz's studio with a warrant for his arrest. He escapes using false identity papers and goes into hiding for several days.

1920 First solo show in Munich. In May marries Eva Peter. Helps organize and contributes to the "First International Dada-Fair" in Berlin, which results in a legal suit for criticism of the Army ("I consider any art pointless if it does not put itself at the disposal of a political struggle," he would later write in his autobiography). The trial ends in 1921 with a fine.

1921 Solo show at the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover. Publication of the collection of drawings Das Gesicht der herrschenden Klasse (The Face of the Ruling Class).

1922 Spends five months traveling in Russia with the Danish Communist writer Martin Andersen-Nexø. Meets Trotsky and Lenin. Growing disillusionment with Communism and the Soviet Union. Publication by Malik-Verlag of the portfolio Die Räuber (The Robbers).

1923 Publication of the portfolio and book Ecce Homo, from which thirty-four reproductions are confiscated. Grosz and the publisher Herzfelde are accused of pornography. The sensational trial ends in 1924 with a fine. Signs a contract with the dealer Alfred Flechtheim.

1924 Despite having left the Communist party the previous year, he becomes chairman of Rote Gruppe (Red Group), an association of Communist artists. Travels with Eva to Paris.

1925 Takes up oil painting again after a hiatus of several years. Participates in the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) exhibition at the Kunsthalle Mannheim. Spends several months in France.

1926 Birth of first son, Peter Michael. Together with Max Pechstein, Erwin Piscator, Wilhelm Herzog, and Maximilian Harden, founds "Club 1926 e.V.", a club for politics, science, and art. Completes the satirical painting Stützen der Gesellschaft (Pillars of Society).

1927 Spends seven months on the French Riviera and develops a new style. Paints landscapes and still lifes in which he departs from the style of Neue Sachlichkeit.

1928 Seventeen drawings are published by Malik-Verlag in the portfolio Hintergrund (Background). Three of the drawings lead to a charge of blasphemy against Grosz and Herzfelde, which ends after many appeals only in 1931 with the defendants' acquittal. In September visits London.

1930 Birth of second son, Martin Oliver.

1931 Meets Otto Dix. For financial reasons, Flechtheim terminates his contract with Grosz.

1932 On April 26, Grosz receives a telegram inviting him to teach a summer course as a guest lecturer at The Art Students League in New York. He accepts to teach at the school, where he will do so intermittently until his return to Germany in 1959. Stays in New York from June to October. Together with the painter Maurice Sterne and the dealer Israel Ber Neumann opens the Sterne-Grosz Studio for the Art in Painting. He also becomes co-editor of the satirical magazine Americana. The New Yorker and Vanity Fair commission illustrations from him. Gets to know James Thurber, Erich Cohn, and George Gershwin. After he finishes teaching, he returns to Germany October 6.

1933 With the Nazis coming to power, Grosz decides to leave Germany for good. On January 31, SA troops storm into Grosz's flat in Berlin. He and his wife have been in New York for two weeks. Their sons follow in October. In March Hitler is given dictatorial authority. That same month Grosz is deprived of German citizenship. Teaches full-time at the Sterne-Grosz Studio and at The Art Students League. Lives initially at the Cambridge Hotel and finally settles in Bayside, Long Island until 1936. He receives further commissions from Vanity Fair.

1934 Devotes himself to watercolour painting, filling sketchbooks with scenes of New York life. Exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, London.

1935 From May to September, Grosz travels in Europe with his family. He illustrates the novel The Voice of the City by O. Henry, one of America's most popular authors. Illustrations by Grosz were printed in two issues of Art Front. Visits his mother in Denmark for the last time. Applies for U.S. citizenship.

1936 Grosz closes the Sterne-Grosz art school, which his partner left the previous year. Grosz receives his first commission for illustrations from the widely circulated Esquire magazine, whose short stories and articles are by famous American writers, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Morley Callaghan. The Museum of Modern Art includes Grosz in two group exhibitions at the same time, "Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism" and "Modern Painters and Sculptors as Illustrators." The Whitney Museum of American Art invites him to participate in its biennial. Grosz moves to Douglaston, Long Island with his family where they will reside until 1947.

1937 Grosz is awarded the prestigious Guggenheim grant which is renewed the following year and allows him to work independently for two years. Though not well-off, Grosz takes in and supports several friends who have immigrated to the United States. In Germany, Grosz's work is prominently displayed in the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art). Two hundred eighty-five of his paintings and drawings in public collections are confiscated and many are destroyed.

1938 Becomes a U.S. citizen. Continues to have numerous illustrations published in Esquire.

1939 Grosz has one illustration published in Esquire. He quits the magazine.

1940 Teaches at Columbia University (until 1942).

1941 Retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art which later tours to venues throughout the United States. Teaches again for three years at The Art Students League.

1942 Interviewed on the radio program "Art Under Hitler," produced by CBS and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1943 The New Yorker publishes a three-part profile of Grosz by Richard O. Boyer.

1945 Grosz's mother and aunt die in a bombing raid in Berlin.

1946 Publication of Grosz's autobiography, A Little Yes and A Big No in New York. Growing depression and increasing alcoholism plague the artist.

1947 Moves to Huntington, Long Island. Offered a professorship at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin.

1948 Despite widespread critical recognition, Grosz sells few works and has little money. Exhibition at the Associated American Artists Galleries in New York.

1949 After a four-year respite, he is forced for financial reasons to resume teaching at The Art Students League and at the private art school in his house on Long Island. Over the summer, teaches at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Solo exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

1950 Work is shown again at the annual exhibition at the Whitney Museum.

1951 Grosz's older sister dies. Visits Europe from May to November for the first time after the war.

1954 Travels to Hamburg, Berlin, and South Germany. Visits Otto Dix. In London, designs sets for the film I Am a Camera based on Christopher Isherwood's collection of short stories, Goodbye to Berlin. Retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.

1955 Publication of the original German version of Grosz's autobiography, which, unlike the American edition, is unabridged.

1956 Teaches at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and lectures at the Des Moines Art Center.

1958 In Berlin from September to November. The National Gallery in Berlin acquires one of his major paintings Stützen der Gesellschaft (Pillars of Society).

1959 He and Eva sell their house, draw up their wills, and return permanently to Berlin in June. They move into a flat in Eva's parents' house. Only a few weeks after their return, following a night of drinking with friends, Grosz collapses shortly after midnight in the entrance hall. On July 6, he is found unconscious by neighbors in the morning and taken upstairs to the flat where he dies shortly after from heart failure.

George Grosz is buried in the municipal cemetery in Trakehner Allee, in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin.

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