Monday, September 10, 2012

Max Monday

The King - By Max Beckmann (click to enlarge)

"We can trace the the change in Beckmann's awareness of his true self in the two versions of The King, done in 1933 and 1937. This is the artist in familiar clownish costume, but wearing the royal crown. In the earlier version, which we now only know through a photograph, he has still immense self-possession. He sits on a severe throne, flanked by women - the clinging young beauty, the ominous old sage. He is supported by a pillar to the right and an open expanse to the left. His eyes survey us gravely but calmly. If there is anxiety, it is behind him, where he cannot see it; the hooded woman regards him with foreboding, and we deduce (this is 1933, remember) that trouble may be on the way. In 1937, the trouble has come, darkening the scene, frightening the woman, causing the king to draw himself up to encounter his fate. Beckmann grew increasingly addicted to the black line, a heavy outline for his images, as if to make their impact inescapable. This can become almost a savage underlining, as here, where parts of the picture thicken with ominous significance. The old woman has darkened into an overcast profile, with shadowed hand warding off approaching evil. The girl has moved from before the throne to a strangely intimate position between the king's legs. She clasps him, terrified, gently immobilising his hands. And who is the king? Beckmann disguised? His noble head is practically unreadable: this is his own private affair. What is shown is his attitude, one of sovereign control. No clown's dress can make a fool of a true king, and if his escape seems barred in all directions by bizarre obstacles, he is undeterred. With its deeply glowing colours and rich, positive lines and blurs of black, this is one of Beckmann's most memorable achievements" --Sister Wendy Beckett, Max Beckmann and the Self

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