Tate Modern, London
The artists condemned as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis really did revel in the perverse and depraved, and their sex and violence-drenched paintings still shock
In a self-portrait that he sketched in the 1930s, George Grosz is getting ready to paint a model in his studio. As she does her hair, standing with her back to him and us, naked except for a translucent green slip that half covers her buttocks, seamed stockings and shoes, he grins lasciviously, squeezing a phallic paint tube. A rag hangs from his pocket like a masturbatory spurt. What a degenerate.
I mean that precisely. In 1937, Grosz, like many of the artists in Tate Modern’s often astonishing display of early 20th-century German art, had his works held up for mockery and revilement by the Nazis in their Munich exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art).