Günter Grass starts studying sculpture in 1948 at the Arts Academy of Düsseldorf with Sepp Mages, who represents a neoclassical approach to figures. From Mages, Grass learns the basic crafts, such as the creation of clay models and plaster casts. After a controversy with his teacher two years later, Grass moves on to Otto Pankok's class, who is known for his large body of late expressionist graphic works. In 1952 Günter Grass continues his professional education as a sculptor with Karl Hartung in Berlin. As a student, Grass is impressed by Wilhelm Lehmbruck's and Aristide Maillol's slender, clearly composed figures.
One of Grass's earliest works reflecting these artistic influences is this female nude titled »Mädchen« (»Girl«), which he created as a plaster model in 1950 and later cast in bronze. In his book of memories Peeling the Onion (2006), Grass relates his nightly break-in into the training studio of the Düsseldorf Arts Academy together with his then-lover to have her pose for him in the freezing cold of the winter of 1949.
This sculpture is the first of his visual art works to be made public. It was covered in the annual report of the Düsseldorf Arts Academy in 1951: „The publication of the Academy brochure did not seem particularly momentous to me at the time, but looking back I can appreciate its importance. It was the only evidence, the only substantiation of my artistic ability – a mere claim until then – that pre-dated my mother’s death: she died of cancer at the end of January 1954.”
Günter Grass always keeps a close relationship with his mother. Even into his old age, it pains him that she did not witness his successes. Unlike his father, she believes in her son's artistic abilities early on and supports him in his endeavors.