Religion of the SwordArtist(s)George GroszArtist NationalityGerman (culture or style)Object Creation Date1924-1927Medium & Supportink on paperDimensions
25 5/16 in x 19 13/16 in (64.29 cm x 50.32 cm);30 in x 24 3/4 in (76.2 cm x 62.87 cm)Credit LineGift of Helmut SternLabel copy
Religion of the Sword satirizes the aggressive, militant nationalism that reentered German politics in the guise of military and paramilitary fascist groups in the post-war years. The paramilitary groups romanticized the war experience, arguing that it made new, more powerful men and provided a model of camaraderie and sacrifice for all of society. Military leaders promulgated what became known as the “stab in the back” legend, which claimed that the German military had not lost the war but had been betrayed by socialist revolutionaries, who made peace without giving the military the chance to win. Thinly veiled within such claims was the suggestion that Germany needed a government that would give the military that chance.
In this drawing, Grosz criticizes how such groups made political use of the legacy of the war. With mindless reverence, the transfixed crowd stares as the laughable military figure holds up a sword as if it were an object of worship. Donkey ears on many of the sword’s faithful followers satirize a foolish public ready again to welcome war.
Text written by David Choberka, Research Assistant for the UMMA exhibition Graphic Visions: German Expressionist Prints and Drawings, January 25–April 6, 2003, West GalleryPrimary Object ClassificationDrawingCollection AreaWesternRights
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modern and contemporary art