Max Beckmann’s “Descent from the Cross” is a significant work in the German artist’s career, showcasing a new approach to painting religious themes following his harsh experiences serving during World War I.
The painting, executed in oil-on-canvas style, presents an unflinching depiction of bodily suffering. Beckmann’s experience of war is evident in his portrayal of Jesus’ oversize corpse, covered in bruises and sores with coagulated blood pooling around the stigmata holes. The use of multiple perspectives directs attention to Christ while emphasizing the weight he bears as he descends from the cross.
Housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, “Descent from the Cross” has been described as having undeniable force and a kind of grotesque, broken pathos that makes it both unsettling and captivating. While not considered Beckmann’s masterpiece, this pivotal work showcases his distinct perspective on religious imagery and sets him apart as one of Germany’s most influential artists of the 20th century.
Additional context for Beckmann’s works includes his rejection by Nazi authorities during their reign over Germany. His expulsion led him to go into exile before returning to Amsterdam and completing paintings with religious themes like Descent From The Cross which received proper acclaim outside Nazi-controlled area where they were officially banned