Unveiled: The Secret Art of German Social Critic Günter Grass

An engraving by Grass from  The Turbot, 1977. (Photo: Milli Reasürans Art Gallery)

An engraving by Grass from The Turbot, 1977. (Photo: Milli Reasürans Art Gallery)

On Monday, the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist and social critic Günter Grass died at 87. Grass gained international notoriety with his 1959 book The Tin Drum, an experimental novel that was the first in his Danziger Trilogie, and was later made into a film in 1979 that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980.

Günter Grass at work on sculptures. (Photo: Gallery Sybille Nuett)

Günter Grass at work on sculptures. (Photo: Gallery Sybille Nuett)

But in addition to his literary achievements, Grass was also an accomplished artist whose sculpture and engravings, some erotic, were shown in major art galleries, and are still showcased at the Günter Grass-House in Lübeck, Germany.

Work from The Turbot, 1977. (Photo: Milli Reasürans Art Gallery)

Work from The Turbot, 1977. (Photo: Milli Reasürans Art Gallery)

A post on the Paris Review Daily from October 2014 calls attention to the lesser-known visual works of Grass. According to Paris Review web editor Dan Piepenbring, the writer mentioned his art in his Art of Fiction interview from 1991 with the quarterly, saying that his drawings began in childhood, and his very first book included visual art as well as poems. Mr. Piepenbring notes that Grass’ work can also be found in the Princeton Graphic Arts Collection.

Work from The Turbot, 1977. (Photo: Milli Reasürans Art Gallery)

Work from The Turbot, 1977. (Photo: Milli Reasürans Art Gallery)

In 2004 the Istanbul Gallery Millî Reasürans mounted an exhibition of engravings he produced for his 1977 book The Turbot, and in 1983 a selection of his drawings and lithographs were shown at Weyhe Gallery in New York. John Russell covered the Weyghe Gallery show for the New York Times, and explained that the tradition of author as artist is not a phenomena specific to Grass, nor to Germany. He cites others such as Thackeray, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edward Lear, and E.E. Cummings as masters of word and pen too. (In fact, work by Cummings will be featured in the Whitney’s inaugural exhibition this May).

On drawing, Grass said in his Art of Fiction Interview, “I am acutely aware of creating something on a sheet of paper. It is a sensual act, which you cannot say about the act of writing. In fact, I often turn to drawing to recover from the writing.”

See more drawings by Günter Grass below: 

Vier Frauen mit Pilzhüten, 1981). Photo: Ketterer Kunst)

Vier Frauen mit Pilzhüten, (1981). (Photo: Ketterer Kunst)

Günter Grass, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner (The Advantages of Windfowl). (Photo: Princeton Graphic Arts Collection)

Günter Grass, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner (The Advantages of Windfowl). (Photo: Princeton Graphic Arts Collection)

Am elften November. 198). Photo: Ketterer Kunst)

Am elften November, (1981). (Photo: Ketterer Kunst)

Günter Grass, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner (The Advantages of Windfowl). (Photo: Princeton Graphic Arts Collection)

Günter Grass, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner (The Advantages of Windfowl). (Photo: Princeton Graphic Arts Collection)

Unveiled: The Secret Art of German Social Critic Günter Grass