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Descent from the Cross

The German artist Max Beckmann was born on this day, February 12, 1884.

Beckmann suffered for his art, his work ultimately labelled ‘degenerate’ in his homeland by Hitler and Nazism. Forced to leave Germany as a result, he lived in relative poverty in Amsterdam for 10 years. Finally, his visa for the US materialised. His fortunes improved in America, but he died within a few years, in 1950 at the age of 66, from heart disease.

Descent from the Cross intrigues and fascinates me. It epitomises the notion of (almost) unbearable suffering, where others, although present, cannot truly bear witness, and avert their gaze. Christ’s body, although pale, emaciated and wounded, seems perversely supersized, as if to emphasise that suffering, represented by perhaps the ultimate icon of human suffering, can overshadow and overwhelm that which it encounters.

CQ

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