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George Grosz

Berlin Street. Circa 1926. Watercolor and ink on paper. Private collection.

EXHIBITIONS (*INDICATES SOLO EXHIBITION)

IFPDA Print Fair 2016

November 3, 2016 - November 6, 2016


IFPDA Print Fair 2016

November 3, 2016 - November 6, 2016


You Say You Want a Revolution

American Artists and the Communist Party

October 18, 2016 - March 4, 2017


You Say You Want a Revolution

American Artists and the Communist Party

October 18, 2016 - March 4, 2017


Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016


Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016


IFPDA Print Fair 2015

November 4, 2015 - November 8, 2015


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015


Recent Acquisitions

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015


Art Basel 2015

June 17, 2015 - June 21, 2015


IFPDA Print Fair 2014

November 5, 2014 - November 9, 2014


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014


Art Basel 2014

June 19, 2014 - June 22, 2014


Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014


Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014


Recent Acquisitions

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013


Art Basel 2013

Galerie St. Etienne, Hall 2.0, Booth D11

June 13, 2013 - June 16, 2013


Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012


The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011


Decadence & Decay

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010


From Brücke To Bauhaus

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933

March 31, 2009 - June 26, 2009


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008


Hope or Menace?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars

March 25, 2008 - June 13, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005


Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005


Sue Coe: Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round and Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 8, 2004 - October 16, 2004


Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


Workers of the World

Modern Images of Labor

April 2, 2002 - June 15, 2002


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001


The Tragedy of War

November 16, 2000 - January 6, 2001


The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000


From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000


The Modern Child

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999


Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999


George Grosz - Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany

September 23, 1998 - November 11, 1998


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Taboo

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998


The New Objectivity

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany

September 16, 1997 - November 8, 1997


Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997


Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996


The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996


From Left to Right

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933

September 19, 1995 - November 4, 1995


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


Art and Politics in Weimar Germany

September 14, 1993 - November 6, 1993


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993


The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993


Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992


Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992


The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991


Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


THE MODERN CHILD

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999

ARTISTS

Burchfield, Charles

Coe, Sue

Darger, Henry

Dix, Otto

Grosz, George

Hopper, Edward

Kollwitz, Käthe

Modersohn-Becker, Paula

Moses, Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma")

Neel, Alice

Schiele, Egon

Shahn, Ben

Soyer, Raphael

 

ESSAY

Ever since the concept of childhood as a distinct developmental stage was introduced by Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, children have served as lightening rods for volatile forces coursing through the culture at large. Idealized as primal innocents and simultaneously exploited for their labor, children in nineteenth-century art and literature became both projections of society's fondest desires and evidence of its most dire failings. Today, in a climate permeated by random violence, this dichotomy is amplified in the contrasting scenarios represented by the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Center outside of Los Angeles and at Columbine High School near Denver: in the former, children are merely hapless victims; in the latter, they are also branded as monstrous killers. The questions raised by these incidents--do children require the protection of society or does society require protection from children?--are only the latest manifestations of a centuries-long obsession with childhood. And since most art works portraying children are made by and for adults, it is not surprising that these works reflect the adult fixations prevalent at the time they were conceived.

 

In Enlightenment philosophy and the early nineteenth-century Romantic stereotypes that devolved from it, the child was kin to the "noble savage." Each ostensibly existed in a pure state of nature, removed from the taint of civilization. This viewpoint was codified in Victorian-era genre paintings that fixed children within a happy sphere apart from adult concerns and knowledge. In the first half of the twentieth century, similar sentiments recur frequently in representational American art. The paintings of Earl Henry Brewster and C. K. Chatterton, for example, depict children gamboling in a bucolic idyll (checklist nos. 5 and 7). Charles Demuth, Louis Eilshemius and Bernard Karfiol add water to the pastoral setting (nos. 16, 18 and 36). And Achsah Barlow Brewster gives us a little girl surrounded by doves, her spiritual siblings (no. 4). In all these pictures, children and the natural environment are paired in a manner whereby each reinforces the inherent goodness of the other.

 

Anne Higonnet, an art historian who has written extensively on childhood, notes that modernism from the outset cast itself in opposition to the sentimentalizing tendencies that characterize most traditional depictions of children. Whereas domestic genre painting was tainted by its popular appeal and by its association with the feminine (both because women were integral to the domestic environment and because many female artists ended up painting such subjects), modernism purported to be more "honest," anti-commercial and masculine. Although the modernists did not altogether eschew portrayals of children, the formalist bent of styles such as Cubism and Expressionism tended to subordinate the emotional context of these images to issues like color and form (checklist nos. 20, 21 and 54).

 

If modernists for the most part tried to cleanse their work of sentimentality, they did not altogether reject the Romantic ideal of childhood. Far from it. In their opposition to bourgeois values, avant-garde artists held up childhood as an ideal to be emulated, just as they lionized tribal art and other creations beyond the reach of Western culture. Not only did many modernists admire and collect the art of children, but they also believed that a child's innate spirit of creativity might be preserved in artists who, for whatever reason, had been denied academic training. As Wassily Kandinsky famously noted, those who went to art school learned to master "the practical-purposeful" at the expense of "the ability to hear the inner resonance." For this reason, European modernists singled out self-taught-painters such as Henri Rousseau, and their American colleagues followed suit with artists such as John Kane (checklist nos. 34 and 35) and Grandma Moses (no. 52). These artists were dubbed "naive" because they were thought to possess the mental purity of children.

 

Of course, any artist with a modicum of social awareness had to recognize that the pristine innocence of a Romantic childhood was the prerogative solely of the upper classes. The privations of Weimar-era Germany were visited with special brutality upon poor children. Käthe Kollwitz was particularly adept at using society's weakest (and cutest) victims to critique prevailing social injustices (checklist nos. 42, 43, 44 and 45). The grating, jarring style employed by other German artists in the 1920s to depict children was in itself a veiled reproach (nos. 2, 64 and 71). Such gangly, ill nourished youths were bound to evoke yearnings for the cherubs of yore. Similarly, the tough, working-class kids seen in the work of American Depression-era social realists such as Ben Shahn had seemingly been robbed of their childhoods by poverty (no. 63). These disparate chroniclers of hard times did not relinquish the ideal of the Romantic childhood; they rather proclaimed it as the birthright of all children, regardless of social station or economic class.

 

If some left-wing artists used images of children to provoke guilt, the right in times of duress frequently invoked the mantra of "family values." Therefore, not all artists embraced childhood with unqualified enthusiasm. George Grosz, for example, could be scathing in his denunciations of the bourgeois family (checklist nos. 25 and 26), an institution officially enshrined in the Weimar constitution. Some ten years later, under Hitler, Lea Grundig would confront a far more frightening sequel: not only the rigid enforcement of domesticity, but the proliferation of little Nazis (nos. 27 and 28). Even in happier times, at the dawn of the present century, the artist Paula Modersohn-Becker experienced feelings of intense ambivalence toward the idea of childbearing. (She would ultimately relinquish her artistic independence to pregnancy and die following childbirth.) Much as Modersohn-Becker wanted to believe in the myth of the fecund, nurturing earth-mother (no. 50), the children painted by her are often distant, inscrutable creatures (nos. 49 and 51). Not entirely unlike Grundig's young Nazis, Modersohn-Becker's children are somehow outside the reach of adult comprehension.

 

One of the artists most successful in penetrating the inner psyches of children was Egon Schiele. Himself scarcely past adolescence when he executed his first mature works in 1910, he had a natural affinity for youngsters. It is well known that this affinity led Schiele astray, causing him to be briefly imprisoned on morals charges, but the fact is that almost none of the artist's numerous drawings and watercolors of children are in any sense risqué. His children, on the whole, are a rarity within the genre: real people, with distinctive personalities and preoccupations (checklist no. 59). Where Schiele trod shakier ground was in his depictions of subjects who, though clearly beyond the age of puberty, appear to occupy a nebulous realm somewhere just shy of full-fledged adulthood. However, it must be remembered that child prostitution flourished in Schiele's Vienna, and that the age of consent was fourteen. Schiele himself was very forthright about the matter. "Have adults forgotten how ... aroused by the sex impulse they were as children?" he asked. "Have they forgotten how the frightful passion burned and tortured them while they were still children? I have not forgotten, for I suffered terribly under it."

 

It was Schiele's contemporary, Sigmund Freud, who truly opened the Pandora's Box of childhood sexuality and dealt a mortal blow to the myth of the Romantic child. For the concept of youthful innocence required, first and foremost, ignorance of all things sexual. From the perspective of a modern viewer, as Higonnet has pointed out, the very suppression of overt sexuality in conventional depictions of children can be subliminally seductive; extreme chastity indirectly suggests its opposite. Today we recognize that the bare-bottomed Coppertone girl and her many pop culture siblings of the 1940s and '50s were subtly imbued with erotic tension. When the self-taught artist Henry Darger "nuded" [his term] comic-strip and coloring-book children in his mural-sized drawings, he was only exposing what was already there (checklist nos. 14 and 15). However, when looking at potentially sexual images of children, whether the period photographs of Peter Altenberg (no. 1) or the current work of Sally Mann (no. 47), one can never be certain how much the child really "knows" and how much is a projection on the part of the artist and/or the viewer. The suspicion that the erotic frisson may be largely in the eye of the beholder accounts for the edgy responses these works frequently elicit.

 

The notion that children are beset by a host of unruly instincts (sexual and otherwise) that must be tamed by civilization is the direct antithesis of the "noble savage" concept. Accordingly, unsocialized children are not "noble" at all, but frankly dangerous. Animated by recent news events, this view finds expression in the move to criminalize children and in the erosion of the protected status formerly granted youthful offenders. In 1993, the artist Sue Coe returned to her native England to document a case that at the time prompted as much outrage there as "school violence" has here in the United States: the abduction and murder, by two ten-year old boys, of the toddler James Bulger (checklist nos. 8-11). Coe was, however, careful to avoid demonizing the children, and she accompanied her drawings of the young perpetrators with a detailed examination of the oppressive social and economic circumstances under which they lived. Reared in an environment of poverty and abuse, children may grow up to be violent, not because they are intrinsically bad, but because they are given no alternative.

 

As a woman speaking out on behalf of marginalized members of society, Coe uses sentiment in the traditional manner of nineteenth-century genre painters, to pinpoint injustice and spur reform. Other contemporary artists, more influenced by so-called post-modern trends, seldom tell didactic stories, and portraits of children, as such, are considerably rarer today than in prior eras. Childhood, on the other hand, is a favorite subject among baby-boom artists, who frequently manifest a narcissistic absorption in their own gaping childhood wounds or a more benign, escapist desire to return to a world populated by Barbie dolls and G. I. Joes. If the Enlightenment gave us the concept of childhood as a separate developmental stage, the late twentieth century may have succeeded in eradicating the concept of adulthood. Thanks to modern medicine and plastic surgery, people believe they need never grow old, and many refuse as well to grow up. Whereas in Puritan times, children were dressed like miniature adults, today tee-shirts and jeans are the uniform of toddlers and grannies alike. Perhaps this is the real reason our children are in trouble: because some adults literally do not see them any more, except as extensions of themselves.