The Large Operation 18_5.jpg

The Large Operation

Item Code: MB-81-s
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The earliest of Beckmann’s prints in the portfolio (perhaps dating as early as 1914), ‘The Large Operation’ takes its inspiration from Beckmann’s first-hand experience with the injured as a medical orderly in the First World War. As with much of Beckmann’s drypoint work, the plate shows signs of burnishing and reworking: the figure to the right, laid out on the operating table, now has his feet crossed over each other, where before they were straight. The change is subtle, but perhaps suggestive too: the pose is reminiscent of Christ’s feet laid over each other on the cross, and with ‘Descent from the Cross’ being another image in the suite the allusion is possibly intended. Certainly, the emphasis is on the two bodies and their resemblance of corpses: where the figure on the right is laid out naked as if already dead, the figure on the left, with incised ribcage and black eye sockets, is skeletal in appearance, as if he were death himself.
Max Beckmann portraitBorn in 1884, Max Beckmann was a German artist and writer who, though he rejected the term and movement, was most closely associated with German Expressionism. Though as a young man he practiced drawing like the old masters, his experiences in the First World War as a medical orderly dramatically changed his style, which became increasingly distorted in both colour and form.

Best known for his extraordinary number of self-portraits, Beckmann received great critical acclaim throughout the years of the Weimar Republic, but his art was denounced by the Nazis and, upon Hitler’s ascension to power, rejected as degenerate art. Originally failing to gain a visa to the U.S. and painting in a studio in Amsterdam, Beckmann eventually emigrated after the war to New York. He died there in 1950.
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