The Night - Painting by Max Beckmann
The Night - Painting by Max Beckmann
The Night - Painting by Max Beckmann
The Night - Painting by Max Beckmann


The Night
Max Beckmann
Oil on Canvas
August 1918 -
March 1919

Max Beckmann is perhaps the best known German expressionist artist.

Already an established artist when the First World War broke out, Beckmann joined the German Army and served in the medical corp until he had a nevous breakdown that resulted in his discharge in 1915.

When the war ended in 1918 he published a series of lithographic prints called Die Hölle ("Hell"), which were searing portrayals of war's brutality, and also a condemnation of the bourgeois society that supported the barbarity.

In 1925 he took a residency in the Master Studio of Staedel College of Arts and Crafts in Frankfurt, and by 1929 had been appointed a professorship in the college. In 1931 the Nazis began to attack Beckmann's work, and in 1937 the fascists officially banned his art. Over 500 of his artworks were removed from German museums. Taking the hint, Beckmann and his wife emigrated to Paris and then Amsterdam. After the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Beckmann burned his diaries, abandoned his possessions, and fled with his wife to the United States. The artist found a fair amount of success in America, and passed away in New York City on December 27th, 1950.

Beckmann dated The Night so precisely - August 1918 - March 1919, because he wanted the viewer to be aware of the historic events it portrayed. The November Revolution that overthrew the corrupt monarchy occured in 1918, unleashing tremendous chaos and violence across the land, and 1919 was significant because a massive general strike had been cruely repressed by the forces of reaction, a precursory event to the rise of the fascist state. Beckmann's painting aluded to the madness engulfing Germany, and he used private metaphors to achieve that end. His painting depicts bailiffs who have broken into a tiny attic room were they abuse, torture, and rape a helpless family. The room the artist painted was a stage where all of the madness and confusion in Germany would play out. Beckmann said he painted the work in order to "give mankind a picture of their fate." Beckmann died in 1950.

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