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Exile for Hire: George Grosz in Dallas

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Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)

Abstract

Texas loomed large in George Grosz’s first imaginings of the American frontier. In a 1915 drawing, Texas Picture for My Friend Chingachgook, he gave his fantasies visual form in a work dedicated to the Indian protagonist of James Fenimore Cooper’s popular Wild West stories. The hard-bitten cowboy, exotic Indian, and salacious prostitute of Texas Picture inhabit a world of sexual license and frontier justice. Rendered in a graffiti-like style, they become stock characters in this and other works that date from the early period of Grosz’s career.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    On Grosz, the German avant-garde and the Wild West, see Beeke Sell Tower, ed., Envisioning America: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs by George Grosz and His Contemporaries, 1915–1933 (Cambridge, MA: Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1990)Google Scholar
  2. Sherwin Simmons, “Chaplin Smiles on the Wall: Berlin Dada and Wish-Images of Popular Culture,” New German Critique, 84 (Fall 2001): 3–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Kay Flavell, George Grosz: A Biography (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 273–277Google Scholar
  4. Hans Hess, George Grosz (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 241–243Google Scholar
  5. Birgit Möckel, George Grosz in Amerika, 1932–1959 (Frankfurt A. M.: Peter Lang, 1997), 184–185.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    In his autobiography, Grosz described his sharp differences with the exiled Thomas Mann on this subject. He also voiced his disdain for Mann’s continued allegiance to German culture in the 1930s. See George Grosz, A Little Yes and a Big No: The Autobiography of George Grosz (New York: Dial Press, 1946), 313–321.Google Scholar
  7. M. Kay Flavell, “Barbed Encounter: A Study of the Relationship between George Grosz and Thomas Mann,” German Life and Letters, 38 (1984): 110–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 7.
    Donald Gordon, “On the Origin of the Word ‘Expressionism,’” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 29 (1966): 368–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Pamela Kort, “The Myths of German Expressionism in America,” New Worlds: German and Austrian Art, 1890–1940, ed. Renée Price (New York: Neue Galerie, 2002), 260–293.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Erika Doss, Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 156.Google Scholar
  11. Erika Doss, “Catering to Consumerism: Associated American Artists and the Marketing of Modern Art, 1934–1958,” Winterthur Portfolio, 26.2/3 (Summer/Autumn 1991): 143–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 10.
    George Grosz, letter to Arnold Rönnebeck, September 19, 1943, in George Grosz, Briefe, 1913–1959, ed. Herbert Knust (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1979), 321.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    For this and other information relating to the DMFA, I draw primarily on Jerry Bywaters, Seventy-Five Years of Art in Dallas: The History of the Dallas Art Association and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1978)Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    These works were put on exhibit at the DMFA, along with pieces by Stuart Davis, Max Weber, and others. See Jerry Bywaters, An Exhibition of Contemporary American Paintings and Sculpture (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1945).Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    Newspaper reports indicate that Grosz’s initial visit lasted two weeks. A 1982 recollection on the part of Harris and Bywaters, however, claims that he remained there for two months. See Becky Duval Reese, Texas Images and Visions (Austin: Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 1983), 88.Google Scholar
  16. 32.
    This figure may represent Grosz’s attempt to render a member of Dallas’s sizeable Mexican community. In an interview published in the German émigré journal Aufbau Grosz described the Dallas commission. He claimed to have toured the city and produced several images of Dallas’s cowboys and Mexicans. The fact that we cannot tell the ethnic identity of this figure, however, is perfectly in accord with the race thinking that prevailed not only in Dallas during this period, but also the rest of the country. Racial difference in the United States was organized along a black-and-white divide. As Jim Schutze maintains in his study of Dallas race politics during this period, Mexicans were regarded as white, though of a lesser order to be sure. See Jim Schutze, The Accommodation: The Politics of Race In an American City (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1986), 71.Google Scholar
  17. Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Verso, 1997), 36.Google Scholar
  18. 38.
    Leon Harris, Merchant Princes: An Intimate History of Jewish Families Who Built Great Department Stores (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1977).Google Scholar
  19. 48.
    Schutze, The Accomodation, 94; Nancy Wiley, The Great State Fair of Texas: An Illustrated History (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 2000), 158.Google Scholar
  20. 53.
    “Resolution on the Promotion of the Work of Communist Artists,” Public Affairs Luncheon Club of Dallas, March 16, 1955, quoted in Francine Carraro, Jerry Bywaters: A Life in Art (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 173.Google Scholar

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© Sabine Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick 2007

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