Max Beckmann

(*1884 Leipzig – †1950 New York)
Sprengel Museum HannoverSprengel Museum Hannover

The series of 10 prints entitled 'Fairground', 1921, conveys the idea that 'all the world is indeed a stage' in the way that it portrays the intense, crowded liveliness of circus, pub and fairground human interaction. People are presented because of distinguishing features such as stature or skin colour, as is evident in the 'Nigger Dance' (sic!), which belies a lack of understanding of otherness. Another example is the manner in which the perilous occupation of the high-wire acrobat is reflected merely in how this provides entertainment.

The carrousel which only has adult passengers reflects the cyclic nature of life, in this case life, without purpose. Behind the scenery, the performers pretend to prepare together for their next act: on closer examination it becomes evident that each is involved only in his own world, and, of course, this is not a good model for how society ought to function. Beckman's view of the fairground lacks any trace of childhood wonder, or the smell of cotton-candy , or the sound of festive music which one would normally associate with this context. At this fairground, the joy, the exhilaration of a day out only exists in our memories. The reality behind the scenes is in the foreground, and behind the scenes lurks 'homo homini lupus'.

Even if this clearly implies a sceptical, pessimistic perspective on Beckman's behalf, he does use theatrical means in this series to convey comprehension, sympathy and catharsis in a pointed manner, and thus suggests hope that humanity might yet manage to improve for the better.

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Sprengel Museum Hannover
Lupe zum Vergrößern
Sprengel Museum Hannover
Lupe zum Vergrößern