Happy New Year 1917, 1917
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.
A scene of enjoyment and celebration is given a sense of the macabre in this image, completed a year before the end of conflict in 1917. Though the faces may remind us of ‘Madhouse’, the setting of ‘Happy New Year’ is more likely the ‘Hotel Löw’, a private infirmary for wounded officers run by a ‘Herr Löw’, an elderly businessman who had earned his money in Argentina. Hofmaier cites a possible source that the eye-patched figure to the lower right is Ernst Guthmann, whose face was horrifically harmed in the war. A slightly earlier print, this drypoint offers an insight into Beckmann’s developing style, where tropes such as the cross-eyed expression of the top left figure can be found in other early prints, such as ‘Evening’.
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