Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Max Beckmann, Auferstehung (Resurrection), 1918, oil on canvas, 345 x 497 cm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. Reproduction not permitted on the Web.

The death

103 - Max Beckmann

On being demobbed, Beckmann slowly returned to painting. He undertook a very large canvas which he never finished. In a complex composition of symbols, it brings together pictures of the war and the rear. A corpse from The Morgue lies in the centre, against a backdrop of ruins. The space is full of wounded, mad and martyred naked bodies. Figures, mostly caricatures, rise up out of the ground, disturbing and ridiculous. The poses are mostly of pain, lamentation, despondency, or to the right, demonic frenzy. Rather than a resurrection, Beckmann has painted an apocalypse. In the centre, a dark star, a kind of black sun, foreshadows further disasters. Nothing here alludes directly to the war, but everything suggests its presence and the suffering it brings, to the point of refusing to finish the painting, of abandoning it, as if the subject was such that a man could not bear it long enough to do so.