Babylon Berlin & George Grosz

George Grosz_John the Woman Slayer
George Grosz. “John the Woman Slayer.”

Just finished watching the period detective noir series Babylon Berlin. Oh my. Didn’t see THAT ending coming. Wish I had read up a little on Weimar Republic history, first — but the storyline was still gripping, even though the many twists and turns of the plot left me a little puzzled and occasionally aghast. I recommend it (but don’t watch it with children around).

GeorgeGrosz_Eclipseofthesun
George Grosz. Eclipse of the Sun.

The brilliant period settings and characters remind me of George Grosz’ scathingly satirical pre-WWII paintings, complete w/butchers at their bloody trade; crippled, begging, WWI veterans; prostitutes in action, communist revolutionaries, greedy elites, escapist cabaret culture, and everywhere the poor and dispossessed. Grosz’ images — ranging from cubist and futurist to his acerbic drawings — are too often disturbingly relevant nowadays.

George Grosz_Nobody Cares About Them
George Grosz. Nobody Cares About Them.

Like the indigent soldiers he often portrayed, Grosz was a veteran of WWI, and his wartime experiences left him a life-long pacifist and activist who was very critical of German nationalist society, as well as any society that promoted violence and war.

He was prosecuted for “blasphemy” in 1928 after producing paintings that criticized the clergy, and eventually escaped to the U.S. in the 1930s after Hitler’s government declared him “degenerate” — probably in retaliation for his drawings and paintings that portrayed pre-war Berlin, and Germany’s culture as a whole, as debauched and degenerate.

George Grosz_Nachts

My Drawings expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment, I drew drunkards; puking men; men with clenched fists cursing at the moon. … I drew a man, face filled with fright, washing blood from his hands … I drew lonely little men fleeing madly through empty streets. I drew a cross-section of tenement house: through one window could be seen a man attacking his wife; through another, two people making love; from a third hung a suicide with body covered by swarming flies. I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crustacean-like steel arms; two medical soldiers putting a violent infantryman into a strait-jacket made of a horse blanket … I drew a skeleton dressed as a recruit being examined for military duty. I also wrote poetry. — George Grosz*

*Friedrich, Otto (1986). Before the Deluge. USA: Fromm International Publishing Corporation. pp. 37. ISBN 0-88064-054-5