Galerie St. Etienne
George Grosz and Elfriede Lohse-Wachtler:
The Galerie St. Etienne opens the autumn season with an exhibition highlighting two major German artists of the 1920s, George Grosz (1893-1959) and Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler (1899-1940). The exhibition is the first in the U.S. to feature Lohse-Wächtler, whose brilliant oeuvre has recently been the subject of a major book and exhibition in Germany. The show is also the latest in the Galerie St. Etienne¹s series focusing on art of the Weimar period. Both Grosz and Lohse-Wächtler were keen observers of the contemporary social scene, and each brought the particular perspective of his or her gender to bear upon this seminal historical era.
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Germany¹s Weimar-based government, which was established following an ostensibly socialist revolution in 1919 and terminated by the ascension of Hitler in 1933, introduced a number of social reforms that included unprecedented rights for women. Grosz and Lohse-Wächtler, however, were both rebels who learned the hard way that many of the regime¹s new freedom¹s were illusory. Rejected by both her father and her husband on account of her artistic ambitions, Lohse-Wächtler slid gradually into poverty and mental illness. In 1940, she, among many psychiatric patients, was gassed in accordance with Nazi policy. Grosz was a more belligerent social critic, whose scathing caricatures of the existing order landed him in court several times and finally prompted him to flee Nazi Germany for America. In the U.S, however, he lost his bearings and succumbed gradually to alcohol; he died following a drunken binge shortly after his final return to Germany in 1959
Of the two artists, Grosz was the more overtly critical of contemporary mores, but arguably Lohse-Wächtler was the more revolutionary. In deriding the moral climate of Weimar Germany, Grosz was essentially a reactionary, whose work ultimately was no more pleasing to the political left than to the right. Lohse-Wächtler, on the other hand, quietly up-ended centuries of male-dominated tradition in her depictions of such subjects as prostitution and the female nude. As the present exhibition demonstrates, the often comparatively private forms of female rebellion can be just as profound and shattering as the more renowned male variant.
A detailed checklist of the exhibition, with descriptive essay, will be sent free of charge upon request.