Max Beckmann’s “Artists with Vegetable” is a thought-provoking group portrait created during the tumultuous time of World War II. Painted between April 6, 1942, and January 17, 1943, Beckmann was living in exile in Amsterdam at the time.
Beckmann was an artist belonging to Expressionism, New Objectivity, and Degenerate Art movements known for expressing the sufferings of Europe in the first half of the 20th century through his paintings. In Artists with Vegetable, we see nine artists posed together while holding vegetables like carrots and cabbage instead of their usual art tools. The use of these vegetables represents a symbol for survival amidst hardship.
The painting is multilayered as each artist has its unique facial expressions that leave open-ended questions about what exactly each of them is thinking or feeling at that moment. Artists with Vegetable has been discussed and referenced many times by art critics who have appreciated its depth and ambiguity. It stands as an excellent example of how artists can translate their experiences into symbolism on canvas where everyone can relate to it differently by interpreting it through their own lens.