Max Beckmann’s “Paris Society” is a genre painting and group-portrait that depicts an isolated and disjointed party on the eve of the Third Reich. This oil on canvas composition is housed in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City. Beckmann painted it after he received an invitation from the German embassy in Paris during 1931-1947.
Beckmann was one of the great artists of German expressionism, known for his unconventional style and deep introspection into his subject matter. He was successful and highly regarded during Weimar Republic Germany, where he probed himself and his inner life in numerous self-portraits to find hidden spiritual dimensions within them.
The composition shows émigrés, aristocrats, businessmen, and intellectuals engaged in a disjointed party that hints at Beckmann’s satirical yet somber commentary about life under Nazi rule pre-war. The work suggests loss of freedom alongside profound loneliness that come with fascist regimes while seemingly outwardly normal people enjoy festivities under watchful eyes. It serves as a stark reminder of how easily communities can fall apart when underlying political establishments disintegrate or become oppressive symbols of power rather than protectors of necessary freedoms.