Birds’ Hell (1938) by Max Beckmann

Birds' Hell - Beckmann, Max - 1938 - 2

Artwork Information

TitleBirds' Hell
ArtistMax Beckmann
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions47 1/4 x 63 in.
Art MovementExpressionism
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About Birds' Hell

Max Beckmann’s “Bird’s Hell,” created in 1938, is a nightmarish painting in the Expressionism style. The artwork portrays a man being tortured by anthropomorphic birds, while a multi-breasted female emerges from an eggshell overseeing their actions. Beckmann was a key figure in the Expressionist and New Objectivity movements, and this painting serves as a warning about human tendencies toward destruction.

During WWII, Beckmann lived in Amsterdam and continued to produce art despite Nazi persecution. His art was often critical of conformity and cruelty during that time. “Bird’s Hell” sold for an extraordinary world record price of £36,005,000 in 2017.

The grotesque imagery depicted in “Bird’s Hell” reflects an outspoken attack on the cruelty of Nazi Germany. Furthermore, it is notable that like other Expressionist works of the time, it aims to evoke emotional responses rather than simply representing objective visual reality. Overall though frightening and perhaps even unsettling for some viewers today or at any point throughout its history, “Bird’s Hell” remains an important piece of political commentary conveyed through artistic expression.

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