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Max Beckmann

German, 1884–1950

© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Hotel Lobby, 1950

Oil on canvas
56 x 35 inches (142.2 x 88.9 cm)
Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1950

Max Beckmann left Germany in 1937 to escape the Nazi regime. He and his wife spent most of the war in Amsterdam, then moved to the United States in 1947. Beckmann was well thought of as an artist, but as a German so soon after the war, was often treated with suspicion. Hotel Lobby, painted the year he died of a heart attack, reflects some of his feelings. The figure in the center is usually identified as the artist himself. He, like everyone else in the painting, seems to be alone—although in close physical proximity, each is emotionally isolated. The black lines create an oppressed and cramped feeling, and the shutter-like object in the foreground keeps viewers at a distance as well. The colors are eerie and cold, and made even more so by the garish artificial light that falls on them.

Although Beckmann did sometimes talk about his art, he believed the mood should come through even if the specific story were unknown. He said, "If people cannot understand my paintings of their own accord, out of their own creative sympathy, there is no use showing the paintings . . . since they are truths that cannot be put into words."

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