Carnival: The Artist and His Wife
Oil on canvas
63 x 41 in. (160 x 105.5 cm)
Kunstmuseum der Stadt, Dusseldorf
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Stephan Lackner writes:
"The artist with his young bride_Max and Quappi were married in September 1925_are out for an evening's entertainment. They have gone to considerable expense for preparations, and their costumes are chic and amusing. They arrive through the parting flaps of a curtain as if they were stepping onto a stage. Their faces are powdered and made up, and they obviously enjoy the masquerade. Beckmann's usually stern mien has loosened up, his expression is just on the threshold of a smile. He is proud of his pretty wife. Even though they do not touch, the parallelism of their hands conveys a feeling of harmony. The artist and his wife have made up their minds "to belong" and to have a good time. The viewer partakes of their good humor.
"The color scheme is of tasteful subtlety. Primary colors are kept to a minimum. The purple, greenish, and russet hues are mixed with great finesse and have a velvety, highly cultured shimmer; in a word, the fabrics look aristocratic. Even the horse is not a makeshift prop, but is a rather luxurious toy to serve only for one evening.
"Quappi, Beckmann's second wife, brought a light note into the tormented painter's life. An excellent violinist, much younger than he, from a well-to-do family, and very much in love, she may have been a distraction for the artist-moralist. Only two years earlier, when Beckmann was asked whether he would paint some war pictures, he replied: "Langst bin ich in anderen Kriegen" (I'm already in different wars). He regarded his art as a spiritual combat. But in 1925, he suddenly seemed to have concluded an armistice with his deeper problems. A great love of life inspired Beckmann at that time, and Quappi helped him to enjoy the present. The Beckmanns were popular with the artistically inclined society of Frankfurt, and Beckmann became the teacher of a master class. It may be noted that later on, when Nazi persecution, exile, hunger, cold, and danger changed their style of living, Quappi remained a most efficient helpmate. "She is an angel," Beckmann said, "sent to me so I could accomplish my work."
"In 1925 this lay far in the future. At the moment Max and Quappi are two figures from a new commedia dell'arte: harlequin and a lovely horsewoman with a funny hat.
"Illusion and reality melt into each other; there is no strict borderline between the two worlds, certainly not during carnival time. Beckmann often endeavored to confound the two spheres. Painting carnival and circus scenes, masquerades and costume parties, he found a whimsical way of philosophizing: Don't trust appearances, things and people are not what they seem to be. But Beckmann was willing to adhere to the rules of society's game-especially when it was an amusement."