Industrialised Peasants (Industriebauern) by Georg Scholz

Georg Scholz

Industrialised Peasants (Industriebauern), 1920, Painting and collage on plywood, 98 x 70 cm, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, Photo: akg-images / Erich Lessing

Close Close
Zoom in Zoom in
Zoom out Zoom out
Reset image Reset image

Those Who Have

Commentary by

The people curse those who hold back grain. (Proverbs 11:26 NRSV)

Georg Scholz’s Industrialised Peasants is one of the most caustic images of the German Weimar Republic. It was first shown in post-war Berlin: at the First International Dada Fair of 1920. Scholz made this work using paint with collage and photographic fragments. The montage technique is characteristic of the Dadaists’ means of encouraging a more critically engaged way of seeing.

These ‘industrialized peasants’ are a farming family. They live surrounded by the trappings of patriotism and bourgeois respectability. A bust of the abdicated Kaiser is visible near a photograph of, perhaps, a son, in military uniform. The father dominates the group, stiffly clutching a gilt-edged hymnbook with a prominent cross, while two paper money fragments show what is really on his mind. A conservative Christian newspaper can be glimpsed on the table. A mother, or grandmother, stares vacantly, clutching a fat piglet to her own porcine body. The child at the table is Scholz’s most grotesque creation, his head hollow and his expression sadistic as he tortures a toad he traps with bony fingers.

Outside is a large modern threshing machine, ready for a big harvest. A fat sack of grain with a marked weight by it stands in the corner, suggesting a hoard and a concern with weights and measures, as doubtful as the evident morality of this crooked family. They resemble the cruel and the godless in Proverbs 11: people who hoard riches and deal in ‘false balances’ (v.1).

Over the course of the war of 1914–18, black market prices for various grains rose from the ‘official’ pre-war price by 2,000–3,000% (Blum 2013: 1070). By 1920, people were suffering the long-term effects of rationing, shortages, and malnutrition.

Scholz related this scathing artwork to his own experience. He claimed that, as a wounded veteran in 1919, he once asked some wealthy farmers for some food to feed his family, but was offered only their compost heap (Doherty 2006: 92). The uncompromising details of Industriebauern express the artist’s own verdict on the wicked’s withholding of ‘what is due’ (Proverbs 11:24).



Blum, Matthias. 2013. ‘War, Food rationing, and Socioeconomic Inequality in Germany During the First World War’, The Economic History Review, 66.4: 1063–83

Doherty, Brigid. 2006. ‘Berlin’, in Dada, ed. by Leah Dickerman (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art), pp. 87–153

Read next commentary