Four Nudes

Günter Grass

Four Nudes
Four Nudes
9.6 x 13.5 in. / 24.6 x 34.4 cm


Apparently weightless, three female nudes circle a male nude, who is absorbed in a book. The perspective and orientation of the painting are not clear as Grass has dispensed with placing them in a concrete spatial context. Their different postures make them look like movement studies.

Similar to Henri Matisse's painting »Dance« (1909), the orange skin of the bodies and the bold, washed blue-greens of the background in Grass's picture form a bright complementary contrast. The bodies are outlined clearly with few lines to make them stand out from the background. Grass presumably also took inspiration from Marc Chagall and the German Expressionists for his early watercolors in the tradition of classical modernism.

While studying at the Düsseldorf Arts Academy, Günter Grass takes up traveling in the summer of 1951 to discover the art in the European neighbor countries. Italy is his first stop. He describes his travel arrangements in Peeling the Onion (2006): „By mid-July I was ready. I promised my parents if not letters, then regular postcards. My rucksack was light: a shirt, spare socks, a box of watercolours, a case of brushes and pencils, a sketching pad, and a few books. I picked up a cheap sleeping bag in a shop selling off US Army supplies. I also bought a pair of marching boots, now billed as hiking boots. True to the most basic of German instincts and thus following in the footsteps of the Teutons, Hohenstaufen emperors, and Deutschrömer art worshippers, I was drawn to Italy …”