Monday, 14 June 2010

Influences: Max Beckmann

Self Portrait, 1922, Woodcut

For my next choice I've chosen the artist that has been the single, biggest influence on my choice of career and on the development of my style as an illustrator: the German painter Max Beckmann. It may not be immediately obvious when you compare his work to mine - the subject matter of my work being a lot lighter, generally speaking, and executed with a different hand and in a completely different medium - but I maintain that his work has been a constant inspiration to me ever since I first laid eyes on it back in high school.

I think the thing that immediately appealed to me about his paintings was the combination of the colour palette - quite restrained and muted when you compare it to other Expressionists of the time - and the intensity of the compositions. 'The Night' is his most famous painting, and it was the first one of his that I saw. It's a chaotic vision of claustrophobia and violence, inspired by his own traumatic experiences in the first World War and rendered in sombre browns and vivid reds. I guess as a teenager I was attracted by the emotional intensity, but it was the individuality of the style and the hand that kept me coming back to his work. I love the way he draws things - whether it's people, objects or landscapes, - with a casual, almost naive quality often at odds with the angular intensity of the composition.

He doesn't fit neatly into any particular artistic movement, which is perhaps why his work is not as celebrated as it should be. He was a bona fide individual, with a style that combined the traditions of figurative art with a particularly 20th Century angst. His work is expressive and personal, without being heavy handed. He rejected the Expressionist label that was often given him, and was exiled from Germany during the years of Hitler's rise to power

The Night, 1918-1919, Oil On Canvas

Self Portrait With Champagne Glass, 1919, Oil On Canvas

Self Portrait With Red Scarf, 1917, Oil On Canvas

The Family, 1920, Oil On Canvas

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