The Descent from the Cross (1917) by Max Beckmann

The Descent from the Cross - Max Beckmann - 1917

Artwork Information

TitleThe Descent from the Cross
ArtistMax Beckmann
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions59 1/2 x 50 3/4 in.
Art MovementCubism
Current LocationMuseum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY, US

About The Descent from the Cross

“The Descent from the Cross” is a religious painting by Max Beckmann, completed in 1917. This work of art exhibits traits of the Cubist movement, with its fragmented surfaces and shapes, and is executed in oil on canvas. The painting measures 59 1/2 x 50 3/4 inches and currently resides at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, New York, USA.

The artwork portrays the biblical scene of the removal of Christ’s body from the cross following his crucifixion, a subject steeped in passion and pathos. Beckmann approaches this traditional theme with a modernist sensibility, fracturing the forms to accentuate the emotional intensity of the moment. The figures are depicted with angular, disjointed bodies, emphasizing the physical strain and spiritual suffering of the scene. Each character is rendered with a unique perspective indicative of Cubism’s disruption of classical representation, allowing the viewer to absorb the scene from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. The use of color and brushwork further intensifies the dramatic effect, a testament to Beckmann’s expressionistic tendencies within the framework of Cubist stylistic elements. The composition pulls the viewer into the unfolding drama, as the weight of the lifeless form of Christ pivots on the edge of the canvas, surrounded by figures caught in the act of lowering him down in both a physical and spiritual descent.

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