ca 1930-35. A chilling image of a pistol-wielding African-American man fleeing the scene of a crime, leaving two white bodies lying in the street. It is unclear whether the scene is intended as a commentary on growing racial tensions in Harlem in the 1930s (possibly a direct reference to the Harlem Race Riot of 1934?), but the work is typical of Groth's social-realist work of the Depression era. Though best remembered as a wartime sketch-artist and book illustrator (he produced a number of titles for The Limited Editions Club, including the widely-praised LEC edition of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front ), Groth began his career as a printmaker and cartoonist very much in the social-realist mold, publishing some of his earliest work in such left-wing forums as The New Masses and PM. He was also the first Art Director at Esquire, which was founded in 1933. Groth's mastery as a printmaker is on display in these early works, which manage to convey a simultaneous sense of urgency and delicacy which would become the hallmark of his battlefield sketches made during WW2 and the Korean War.
Groth's Depression-era work has remained scarce in the marketplace, with only a few examples of his social-realist prints at auction in the past twenty years. The current example is from Groth's personal archive, which we acquired in 2013. Original drypoint etching. Sheet size 27.5cm x 41cm (ca 10-3/4" x 16"); image area 15.5cm x 30cm. No edition stated (artist's proof?). Signed in pencil, lower right. Old crease and kraft paper adhesions to extremities (well away from image); Near Fine.