Monday, June 7, 2010

Otto Griebel

Otto Griebel (1895-1972) was born in Meerane, Saxony, the son of a wallpaper hanger. He began studying interior design and painting at age seventeen at a local school, and then pursued his studies in Dresden until he was drafted in 1915. In 1918, after being seriously wounded, Griebel joined the revolutionary Soldiers' Council. 


 Otto Griebel, The International, 1928

After the war his life became centered around political and artistic activity: in 1919 he joined the German Communist Party (KPD), became a member of the Novembergruppe, participated in Dresden Dada activities, and made contacts with the Berlin Dada group. In 1921 he assisted the KPD during the various workers' uprisings and worked as a draftsman for many of the party's publications. This same year he made the acquaintance of George Grosz, Otto Nagel, and Rudolf Schlichter.

 Otto Griebel, Sunday Afternoon, 1920

Griebel continued to work for political organizations, such as the Junge Rheinland (Young Rhineland), the Dresdner Sezession-Gruppe 19, Boleslav Strzelewicz's Red Troupe, the Rote Gruppe and the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe, throughout the 1920s. Despite his anti-establishment stance, however, he actively exhibited his artwork in public German institutions. In 1929 he participated in the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Amsterdam; this same year he ran into difficulties with the Gemini government and was tried for insulting the military. The trial seems to have had little impact on either his artistic or political growth, for in 1930 he participated in a political puppet show and exhibited his work in both Berlin and Dresden.

 Otto Griebel, Ship Boilerman, 1920

During the Nazi years, Griebel was subjected to increasing persecution. In 1933 he was arrested by the Gestapo, but was released after protest by the Secession. Nevertheless, he was permitted to work as an exhibition planner at the Dresden Hygiene Museum. Only in 1937 was his work (together with that of many other artists) removed from German institutions; several pieces were displayed in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition in Munich. 

 Otto Griebel, The Naked Whore, 1923

Despite his liberal political views, Griebel managed to live out the war years almost entirely unscathed in Germany and German-occupied territory. In 1939, he was drafted into military service in Poland, and after obtaining a release from active duty, he served as an exhibition coordinator in Cracow. His political consciousness did not wane, and in 1943 he successfully helped twenty Jewish men escape from the Tarnow ghetto. When, the following year, he was drafted again into the militia, he deserted. During 1944, most of Griebel's work was destroyed in the allied bombing of Dresden. Subsequently, in 1946, he returned to teaching at the College of Fine Arts in Dresden. Throughout the 1950s and 60s Griebel worked at several art institutions in Dresden and exhibited his art all over the continent.

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