Acknowledged as one of its "greatest masters," Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
saw both the best and the worst of a century once called, without irony, "The
Century of Progress." Early in his career he saw himself as a traditionalist.
Decrying abstract tendencies in art, he concentrated on portraits and contemporary
history painting (JAMA cover, October 2, 1996). His personal experiences
of World War I, however, changed all that. His canvases took on sometimes
frightening psychological overtones. Yet he was never without hope: he began
to see the artist not merely as a picture maker, but as one who played a central
role in political life. The artist, he believed, was the state's chief architect.
But then that, too, changed. One day at the summit of his profession, the
next he heard himself ridiculed as an "art dwarf." One day a respected and
highly influential professor of art in Frankfurt, the next he found himself
a man with no job and no status. One day working in the security of anonymity,
the next he was an exile, fleeing for his life. The King
(cover ) can be considered a record of those years.
Southgate MT. The King. JAMA. 1998;279(23):1851. doi:10.1001/jama.279.23.1851