Two Men Swinging Hoes and Two Women Planting PotatoesArtist(s)Max BeckmannArtist NationalityGerman (culture or style)Object Creation Date1915Medium & SupportPen and black ink on cream colored wove paperDimensions
7 3/4 in. x 8 1/2 in. ( 19.7 cm x 21.6 cm )Credit LineGift of the Emil Weddige CollectionLabel copy
Scenes from rural life, once regarded by the Expressionists as a refuge from modern problems, became tinged with the ominous once World War I began. In this drawing by Max Beckmann, the grim mood and the military stance of the farmers are not merely an incidental result of the dark atmosphere of wartime. In a letter from May 1915, Beckmann described his encounter with farmers near his post and revealed the inspiration for this print: “On the way home I observed a pair of women planting potatoes with two farmers with enormous hoes—long, angry guys who let fly with great force. From a distance they looked like reapers of death. . . . They [the military command] want to take Ypres early tomorrow morning. Before that though, I must draw these farmers again.”
Volunteering as a medical orderly in 1914, Beckmann welcomed the war as part of life’s experience and saw it as a great adventure, providing material for his sketchbook. The daily horrors that he encountered, however, prompted a personal re-evaluation that had marked effects on his art. Turning away from the Romantic Realism of his Post-Impressionist training, he explored a more expressionistic style, seen here in the two-dimensional, processional placement of the angular figures and the unrestrained use of line.
Text written by David Choberka, Research Assistant for the UMMA exhibition Graphic Visions: German Expressionist Prints and Drawings, January 25–April 6, 2003, West GalleryPrimary Object ClassificationDrawingRights
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