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The Cover
December 9, 2009

Moon Landscape

JAMA. 2009;302(22):2403. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1625

The German painter Max Beckmann (1884-1950) is better known for his portraits than his landscapes. As a portraitist, he was chiefly concerned with how people develop a sense of themselves as individuals. Beckmann portrayed the world as a stage and its inhabitants as performers who have the opportunity to choose and discard one role after another, gaining experience and identity over time. He composed elaborate visual metaphors, dressing his characters in costumes to reveal their human strengths and weaknesses. The figure of an acrobat might represent social or intellectual agility, a blind king the obliviousness of power. To confront the viewer with the personas of his characters, Beckmann made them the center of attention, often framing them tightly in a cramped and claustrophobic foreground (JAMA covers January 10, 1996, June 17, 1998, and February 13, 2002).