This work mixes elements of Futurism and Cubism to show a funeral procession, set in a modern urban city, depicted as an infernal abyss filled with twisted and grotesque human forms.
It's dedicated to the German psychiatrist and avant-garde writer Oskar Panizza (1853-1921), noted for his play Liebeskonzil, which references the first historically documented outbreak of syphilis and depicts God the Father as a senile old man. Although his works were deemed blasphemous at the time by both the Church and government of Emperor Wilhelm II, they were greatly admired by the young, idealistic Grosz.
The painting achieves the effect of a hellscape through its colourisation—in particular through its use of red light—and multitude of distorted bodies and limbs. A skeleton representing the Grim Reaper sits on the coffin, drinking alcohol from a bottle. Before and behind him are the mob-like mourners who are depicted as ugly, frenzied and ridden with alcoholism and the madness of late-stage syphilis.
Above the procession, tall buildings induce claustrophobia, seeming to lean and bend both backwards and forwards, as if about to topple over and onto those gathered below. Among these buildings is a small church, surrounded by bars, nightclubs and offices. Giving a literal voice to the "Dance of Death" depicted by the artist, a sign over one club reads "DANCE TONIGHT".
Explaining his intention when creating the work, Grosz said:"In a strange street by night, a hellish procession of dehumanized figures mills, their faces reflecting alcohol, syphilis, plague ... I painted this protest against a humanity that had gone insane." (wikipedia)
|I am always there, 1936|