artist or mystic: hans friedrich grohs


Dean Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School wrote a beautiful study on Hans Friedrich Grohs, From Bereavement to Benediction, for First Things outlining the German Expressionist’s faith, history, and experiences.

It would be another six years before Hitler came to power, but already the changing social and political climate had undermined the biblical witness of the church in Germany. Over the next decade, the culture of the Weimar Republic was eclipsed by a ruthless totalitarian regime. In 1934, Hans Grohs became a professor at the Nordische Kunsthochschule in Bremen. For several years he flourished there as an artist and teacher. In 1937, however, his career was shattered and his artworks were declared “degenerate” by Joseph Goebbels and the Nazi censors. As a member of the German Confessing Church with known sympathies for Jewish people, Grohs came under grave suspicion. Some of his artwork was taken from his home and publicly burned, while other pieces were defaced or destroyed.

The University of Dayton’s Marian Library is presently featuring an exhibition on the artist through mid-November 2016.  I have featured above one of the woodcuts, which I agree stand apart from his work in other media and most clearly reveal his expressionist orientation.  I believe these are most reflective of Grohs’ childhood tales of Nordic mythology, Nordic history, and old fishing and family stories perhaps speaking more to a mystical leaning.

However, we know with war recovery this resilient artist, poet, and author resumed his prolific output turning inward toward his deep faith in Christ, saying, “It is not I who paints, but God who guides my hand.”

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