Max Beckmann’s self-portrait “The King” is a haunting portrayal of the artist with his wife Mathilde, completed in Berlin prior to their escape to the Netherlands in 1937 amidst the persecution of the Nazi regime. A prominent figure of Weimar Republic art, Beckmann was one of many artists vilified by the Nazis due to his provocative and often fantastical work that pushed boundaries and challenged societal norms.
In “The King,” Beckmann blends reality with fantasy to produce a nightmarish world where immoral businessmen and strange women mingle alongside other eerie figures. This painting serves as a testament to how he melded medieval painting tropes into an allegory for contemporary humanity. His works have had a profound influence on American Figurative Expressionism, showcasing his ability to create intense, thought-provoking imagery.