Diana - Or the Objects

Günter Grass

Diana - Or the Objects
Diana - Or the Objects
16.8 x 24 in. / 42.9 x 61 cm


Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, is the broadly outlined object of this charcoal drawing. Her stocky figure takes up more than half of the landscape format sheet. One foot set before the other, her body is turned nearly completely frontward. With her right hand, she is reaching back for an arrow in the quiver. In her left hand she holds a relatively small bow. The shape of her body is outlined under the knee length chiton with its brisk hatching. Her monumental corporeality resonates of Pablo Picasso's compact and sturdy female figures from his neoclassical period. Grass presumably already knew the works by the Catalan as a youth. Grass's art teacher Lilly Kröhnert introduced him to the art of classical modernism, which the Nazis had pronounced »degenerate«. Grass visited the first Picasso exhibition in Germany after World War II, which took place in Hamburg in 1956.

This drawing is a draft that Grass will publish in his poetry volume Gleisdreieck (»Rail Triangle«) (1960). The accompanying poem »Diana – Or the Objects« reflects his aesthetic attitude as visual artist and as writer. The lyrical subject realizes that artistic inspiration is only experienced by way of the »objects of nature«. A mere »shadowless idea«, however, leaves him cold. The ancient goddess Diana, whose name derives from the Latin dius for »godly« or »divine«, stands for the inspiration that fills the lyrical subject in the face of the objects of reality.

Grass's works pick up on a debate that created a stir in the art scene of the 1950s. It centers on the issue of whether an artist should create representational or abstract art. In his poem, and in combination with the figurative illustration, Grass clearly commits himself to representational art. Ultimately, his creative works are often based on everyday objects and sensuously perceptible reality. This commitment at the time makes him an outsider among visual artists. From the mid-1950s on, notable art critics in the Federal Republic of Germany, for instance Will Grohmann, postulate the freedom of abstraction and distance themselves from the socialist realism of the Eastern Bloc.