Max Beckmann’s triptych painting, The Actors, was created in 1942 during World War II when the artist was in exile in Amsterdam. The artwork portrays a theater rehearsal and demonstrates the artist’s challenge to illusionistic perspective with disjointed spaces above and below the stage. It is considered a masterwork of Expressionist genre painting and is located in the Harvard Art Museums.
Beckmann was known for depicting actors, cabaret singers, heroes, and thugs in his works, often placing himself as part of the action. Utilizing the triptych format, this painting conflates modern society with the stage. Beckmann was a German painter and printmaker and was associated with Expressionism, New Objectivity, and Degenerate Art movements.
The oil paintings of Beckmann are hailed for their expressive contours and bold colors. The Actors is an example of how Beckmann blended the visual representation and the representational world. The disjointed spaces shown in the painting highlighted the thematic uncertainty and discomfort that many people went through during World War II. The composition of the painting emphasizes an arena in which there is no clear line between performance and reality. The Actors served as a means for Beckmann to communicate his perspective on the chaos and social upheaval of those times.