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Between and Mortarboard

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Two Men Swinging Hoes and Two Women Planting Potatoes

Accession Number

Two Men Swinging Hoes and Two Women Planting Potatoes

Max Beckmann

Artist Nationality
German (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
Pen and black ink on cream colored wove paper

7 3/4 in. x 8 1/2 in. ( 19.7 cm x 21.6 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of the Emil Weddige Collection

Label 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 Gallery

Primary Object Classification

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modern and contemporary art

4 Related Resources

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Social realism, mid-19th century to mid-20th century
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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