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. Les Artistes mit Gemüse depicts Beckmann, in the lower right corner, accompanied by three fellow artists in exile. Huddled around a small table, each artist holds a mysterious attribute, including a fish, a vegetable, and a mask - all presumably symbols relating to the artists' interests. Despite the hostilities and turmoil in the external world - represented 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 symbolizes 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 a transcendent realm in which the artist's mission was to address emotional, spiritual life rather than social or political realities.
The Kemper Art Museum has received a $36,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) that will support a detailed conservation study of paintings in the Museum's permanent collection.