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The Cover
June 17, 1998

The King

JAMA. 1998;279(23):1851. doi:10.1001/jama.279.23.1851

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.

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