Monday, February 24, 2014

Max Monday

Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass, By Max Beckmann - 1919

"Every one of his works has the mystery of being human as its undertone. It is not flaunted, but it is a constant presence. Grosz, who had shared many of Beckmann's feelings, had resorted to the savagery of caricature. Beckmann, a greater artist and a more balanced man, came near it but did not fall over that dangerous edge. Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass is the nearest he got to self-pity or mockery. The man behind the partition, the happy man, the one who could feel at home in the world of post-war Germany - he is a figure that recalls the bitter cartoons of Grosz. Our attention is instead on Beckmann himself, the man who does not fit into this wounded society, but who must nonetheless appear to take his place. He forces a smile, his lips writhing in what he hopes will pass as a welcoming gesture. The falsity is painful, and so is his bodily position, squashed against the bar in a world of no-space. His celebratory drink is for holding, not for enjoying: it belongs by right to the space of the man it toasts, the man behind, the man who belongs. The champagne bottle neck lunges at the artist like a small field gun, hemming him in with its pretence of happiness. Even his clothes are subtly wrong, too short in the arm, and the arm itself seems ill-formed. Beckmann shows himself as a death's head, with livid skull, sunken eyes, skeletal fingers. It is 1919, and he is coping, but barely." --Sister Wendy Beckett, Max Beckmann and the Self

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