Max Beckmann is a German painter who produced a wealth of work with the rise of German expressionism in the early 20th century. Today he is commonly labelled as an expressionist artist although at the time he rejected both the term and the movement itself. In the 1920s he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism which brought a more cynical and socially critical philosophy to the art world.
Beckmann was born into a middle class family and initially learned to paint in the ‘traditional’ representative sense under the influence of Impressionist artists of the late 19th century. During the 1st world War Beckmann served as a medic and the traumatic sights he witnessed lead him to suffer a nervous Breakdown in 1915. The suffering of the first world war had a harrowing effect on Beckmann and spurred a dramatic transformation of his style from academically correct depictions to a distortion of both figure and space, reflecting his altered vision of himself and humanity. Beckmann began to create pieces that commented on the brutality of War and human nature both in terms of subject matter and stylistic details such as his famously recognised heavy emphasis on black lines and rough edges to the form.
These two self portraits by Beckmann Show Clearly how his painting style changed dramatically following his experiences in the 1st world war, His self portrait in Florence (1907) shows a near impressionistic style whilst 10 years later we see he has developed a far more defined Expressionist style. In the portrait with the Red scarf we see Beckmann has adopted a far more dark and sinister approach to the portrait using duller grey tones and a more warped sense of proportion matched with a near haunting and noticeably uncomfortable expression.
The night 1918 1919 “give mankind a picture of their fate”. Oil on canvas Content
Although there is some ambiguity as to the subject matter of the piece Many would agree that It is Beckmann’s portrayal of one moment in time showing Bailiffs who have broken into a tiny attic room where they abuse, torture, and rape a helpless family .The Night Presents a world of pain and despair to which there is no escape and little suggestion of eventual salvation. The Victims of the piece- a man, his wife and his daughter are completely helpless, physically imprisoned by their captors and the can do nothing but face the torture that is forced upon them. Beckmann dated The Night so precisely - August 1918 - March 1919, because he wanted the viewer to be aware of the historic events it was related to. In Germany, a November Revolution that overthrew the corrupt monarchy occurred in 1918, unleashing tremendous chaos and violence across the nation, 1919 was also significant because a massive general strike had been cruelly repressed by the forces of reaction which triggered the eventual rise of the fascist state. Beckmann's painting shows the madness engulfing Germany at the times, and reveals the true horrors occurring in every day life. Naturally the piece has a very dark and sinister mood which makes this presentation of unadulterated brutality and pain quite uncomfortable to see.
Signinficance expressionist painter immediate impact and potency expresses radical social/political views at the time. Beckmann was classed as a ‘degenerate’ artist by the nazi political movement during WW2 and was imprisoned for a brief period due to his depictions of grotesque and distorted figures, which epitomised what the Nazis considered to be ‘degenerate’ art . Several of his works were included in the 1937 Degenerate Art show
Beckmann uses largely unrealistic toes when considering the skin-he presents the figures in a rather grey tone with hints of blues, yellows and greens giving an eerie effect as if the figures in question are in fact dead or at least nearing it, this notion is also reflected the skeletal like form...