George Grosz’s painting Dedication to Oskar Panizza (1917-1918) is part of German political history, but this work also has its own place in the longer history of the iconographical theme “Dance of Death.” The significance of the “Dance of Death” to the meaning of Grosz’s Dedication to Oskar Panizza is often mentioned in descriptions of this painting. Yet, a close analysis of the “Dance of Death” theme in this work is rarely addressed. In this thesis I discuss the socially and politically important uses of the “Dance of Death” theme in German history. Applying this history to my analysis of Dedication to Oskar Panizza I clarify how Grosz is reinterpreting a “Dance of Death” theme at the close of World War One. I demonstrate that Grosz makes use of the “Dance of Death” theme in order to emphasize the folly and ignorance of early Weimar society. In conclusion I place Grosz’s work within the history of the “Dance of Death” as another instance where the direction of Germany’s society is being called into question through reinterpretation of this imagery. To make these claims I review historical depictions such as the walls of the St. Mary’s Cathedral Prayer Chapel in Lübeck, and the engravings from Albrecht Dürer.
Tiffany Ghearing, ’11
Lees Summit, MO
Majors: German, Art and Art History
Sponsors: Christina Penn-Goetsch and Christa Robbins