Artwork Detail

Les artistes mit Gemüse (Artists with Vegetable)
1943
German, 1884–1950
Oil on canvas
58 15/16 x 45 3/16 "
University purchase, Kende Sale Fund, 1946
WU 3789
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Highlights
One of the most influential German modernists, Max Beckmann painted Les artistes mit Gemüse while living in exile in occupied Holland after leaving Nazi Germany in 1937. In this painting Beckmann depicts himself, in the lower right corner, accompanied by three fellow exiles. Huddled around a small table, each holds a mysterious attribute, including a fish, a vegetable, and what looks like a mask—each presumably relating to the figure’s identity. Despite the hostilities and turmoil in the external world—possibly referenced by the blazing inferno in the picture or window behind the artists—the shaman-like figures engage in a sort of spiritual, ritualistic ceremony. The glowing candle they surround might imply creative energies that transcend the desolation of the modern condition, corresponding to Beckmann’s conception of the role of artists: during his period in exile, Beckmann stressed the separation of art from life, seeing art as an autonomous realm in which the artist’s role was to shape spiritual life rather than respond to social or political realities. These conditions are nevertheless mediated in the painting.