Muralismo y docencia en la Universidad Autónoma de Hidalgo, Mx.

En mi último viaje a México tuve el gusto de conocer al Maestro Jesús Rodriguez Arévalo, docente de la asignatura Pintura Mural de la Universidad Autónoma de Hidalgo. Él me obsequió un catálogo con una de sus actividades. Lo comparto.

"Soluciones poliangulares por disecciones anatómicas en la pintura mural"

Esta obra se realizó siguiendo la planificación de la investigación de la tesis de maestría en Artes Visuales de la UNAM; con la participación de cuatro alumnos que cursaron la asignatura de Pintura Mural 1 y dos alumnos de servicio social de la Licenciatura en A. Visuales del Instituto de Artes de la UAEH. Se pintó en cuatro meses incluyendo la realización de la maqueta y la investigación documental.

Groping for the Platonic TV Set

It's often interesting to examine design from the point when a type of product makes its first commercial appearance until things settle down to a "best" general solution that persists with relatively minor variations until the class of product becomes obsolete or a major technological advance requires a renewed design evolution.

Designers are literally making things up as they're going on, uncertain what the ultimate general solution will be. There are trials, errors and successes (measured by market acceptance) along the way.

Today's post deals with television set design evolution in a sketchy way from the late 1930s till nearly 1960. Call it 20 years -- 15 if the "time out" for World War 2 is factored in. By "sketchy" I mean that entire classes of TV sets such as tabletop or semi-portable examples are omitted from this review. Perhaps I'll get around to dealing with them another time.

Marconi - 1937
RCA sets displayed at 1939 New York World's Fair
For some reason many of the very earliest television sets that people could actually buy had a top with a mirror underneath that could be propped open when one was about to turn it on (the controls were under that top along with the cathode ray tube - CRT). The CRT was set up so that it projected a reversed image that the mirror then righted so that the image was normal -- that is, so any text images could be read normally. Actually, the reason is pretty obvious: the console containing the television set was simply another sort of cabinet when not in use, just another piece of furniture. (See below for later examples of this design strategy.) The problem with the mirror feature was that viewers had to be positioned almost exactly opposite the set and have their eyes at the correct height to be able to view the image properly. Direct-viewing TVs were less restricted. Even so, CRTs were small in the early days, so viewers still had to huddle and stay closer to the screen than later on. Mirror-top televisions were still being sold in the late 1940s, but then disappeared from the marketplace.

Advertisement showing Dumont console - ca. 1950
For many years television sets resided in living rooms, where families tended to gather before the "family room" gained popularity in America starting, say, in the mid-1950s. Therefore the expensive TV set (and they often cost more than today's largest flat-screen TVs, adjusting for inflation) was a major item of furniture that many wives wanted to fit well with the rest of the décor. Note that the console has doors than can be closed to hide the screen when not in use.

Crosley TV with radio/record player - 1950
This Crosley is a pretty typical less-than-a-console TV with respect to price and style. (Actually, the ensemble shown is contained in a console -- but the set itself in the upper-right corner could just have well be freestanding, and probably was in most cases.) It just sits there on one side of the living room and its big "eye" stares back at you all the time. Of course, this is how most television sets were over the last 60 years, console models having gradually faded from the scene.

Zenith with round screen - 1950
For some reason Zenith built a line of sets with round screens for a few years. They seemed odd at the time, but at least a few people bought them. Why a round screen? Well, cathode ray tubes were round in those days and perhaps designers felt that a round "frame" for the image was "functional," the holy grail of purist industrial design and architecture. But source images were essentially rectangular, so the round format clipped off parts that might be of interest to the viewer.

Philco Predicta - ca.1959
This TV set was built 10 years before the moon-landing image being shown on the screen. But hey, this design was really super-dooper space-age! Actually the modular screen/innards box concept wasn't a bad one; most desktop computers until recently followed the same practice. Philco's problem was that this line of TV sets was unreliable, thus helping to kill sales. Another negative might have been that the design would clash with traditional-style living room décor; TVs tended to reside in living rooms in those days, as noted above.


Caminando por la Colonia Tabacalera, D.F.; junto al Maestro Alberto Hijar, me detuve frente al Monumento a la Revolución (terminado en 1938). Me llamó la atención el grupo escultórico que se encuentra coronando las cuatro columnas de la construcción.
Habíamos advertido una bellísima conexión entre las esculturas de Oliverio Martinez y la poderosa imagen de Ricardo Carpani. Piedra y pasión por lo nuestro, por nuestra lucha, por vivir en América. No existen las casualidades.

Crumbling Egos

Eric Felten's De Gustibus column in the 24 September Wall Street Journal (link here) has the intriguing title "Pardon Us, But Our Museum Is Falling Apart."

He cites defect examples that include the new Modern Wing of Chicago's Art Institute and I.M. Pei's National Gallery East Building -- the latter apparently needing an extensive re-skinning.

Then there are the cost over-runs. Felten mentions an addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum that was budgeted at $35 million but came in at $125 million, nearly four times the estimate.

What is going on here?

Radically designed buildings are essentially massive inventions produced and sold without prototypes. Is it any surprise they tend to be glitchy?

There have always been building failures (you would not want to have been standing in the choir of the Beauvais Cathedral the evening of 29 Nov., 1284). But the impractical nature of much current architecture has made it a pressing modern problem.

And then there's this bit that warms the cockles of my black little modernist-distrusting heart:

"The forms of traditional buildings, such as pitched roofs and moldings, almost always contribute to proper weathering, shedding water, and protecting the structure," says Steven W. Semes, a professor of architecture and academic director of Notre Dame's Rome Studies Program. "Modern buildings often assume shapes that do the opposite, directing water into the building rather than away from it."

I've been aware of the last point by virtue of living most of my life in the drizzly Pacific Northwest: essentially flat roofs are harder to drain than peaked ones.

But the point about large, flash, ego-statement building being engineering experiments hadn't sunk into my brain even though it should have years ago. Thank you, Eric, for highlighting this.

Art Buzz (New Delhi) Art Celebrates 2010 - Sports and the City

Costumed in Carmel-by-the-Sea

It was a typical foggy morning as we lined up outside the mess-hall door waiting our turn for breakfast. A newsboy hawking San Jose papers moved along the line but got few takers, as usual.

I'm normally a news junkie, but the rigors of Basic Training seem to have killed most of my interest; the Army kept me too occupied to spare the time and effort. But I did scan the headlines if they were large enough. Not long ago there were huge ones about Russia testing a 50-megaton H-bomb.

But today was going to be special. We were more than halfway through the eight-week training cycle, it was Sunday, and this afternoon we were to get our first pass. We could do as we pleased, provided it was legal, from noon till 10 that evening.

Many guys planned to head for the Soldiers' Club, a large, wooden structure near the beach where one might order a real hamburger and down some beer. Others, me included, opted to go off-post for the afternoon. Of course we had to wear uniforms -- our green "bus-driver" style Class-A kit complete with no rank or unit indicators, we being of the lowest class of Private and too temporary to bother having a Sixth Army shoulder patch sewn on.

Where to go? Perhaps to Seaside or Marina, in those days off-post purveyors of booze and other imagined necessities for those who found Fort Ord's Soldiers' or NCO clubs too tame. But we might have been told to keep away from Seaside and Marina; I don't remember, perhaps because they didn't appeal to me in the first place. Otherwise, given that we had to take a bus, the only real possibilities were Monterey and Carmel. I went with the Carmel-bound group, which was a pretty small share of our training company: let's say six of us.

Since then, I've visited Carmel quite a few times and have a rough feel for the place. It's a former art colony that remained pretty arty. Immediately to the northwest is the famous Seventeen-Mile Drive part of the peninsula. It has a number a well-known golf courses including Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay, Spyglass and Cypress Point. Some housing near the north part of the Drive was originally modest, middle-class, but near the west and, especially, the south there are plenty of ritzy digs. To put it another way, the area in and near Carmel is crawling with money. And it probably was when our bus finally dropped us off near Ocean Avenue.

The "downtown" (business district) part of Carmel is small now and about the same size when we set off to explore it. Even the buildings are pretty much the same. Nowadays, there's a small, three-floor open mall at the top end of the Ocean Avenue commercial strip and here and there are other buildings that were added since that Sunday when the Army invaded. One thing that definitely has changed is that Fort Ord is now essentially closed. There are no more young men going through Basic and I haven't seen anyone wearing an army uniform in Carmel in years. The closest I came was when I was chatting with a retired Navy Rear Admiral at my wife's college sorority alumnae club Christmas party in a house near the number two green at Spyglass, and that's not close at all.

Anyway, since we had little money and virtually no place to store any purchases, we simply wandered around, gazing at the storefronts, Spanish-style buildings and the occasional odd Storybook Style structures that can still be found there.

Perhaps we had something to eat and maybe drank a Coke or Pepsi someplace. But after two or three hours, we'd wrung the place dry several times over and caught the bus back to Ord. Once there, we checked out the Soldiers' Club. It featured a big, smokey hall where beer was served, but I'm not sure if I bothered to wait in line to buy a glass. The next day we'd be back to training, so we hiked back to the barracks to get our gear in shape and have some sleep.

Besides the lack of money and storage places, our visit to Carmel was limited psychologically. Yes, were were on pass and off-post, but we weren't really free from the Army thanks to the pass' deadline and the possibility that Military Police might flag us down and offer some hassle (one reason I passed up seeing Monterey, a less classy place than Carmel). We were guys about 20 years old wearing "Army Green" -- not a bit like the older, much richer and better-dressed locals. We eyed them and they eyed us, quite likely gazing down their mental noses in the process.

In a nutshell, I felt out of place and distinctly uncomfortable. I had pretty much the same reactions two years later by the beach at Waikiki on a short pass while our troop ship paused in Pearl Harbor on its way to the Far East.

A look at the market for experimental art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

It can be observed that a large number of art exhibitions these days focus on conceptual and experimental art. These exhibitions are sometimes organized in mainstream galleries or more often in alternative spaces, which thrive on experimental art. Such alternative spaces are usually associated with artist residencies or collectives and provide a much needed impetus to alternative art practices.

It has therefore become fairly common to see emerging artists experiment with new media and avant-garde art. However, in terms of sales, experimental art is yet to strike a chord with a broader buyer base. Most buyers have a conservative approach and prefer to opt for traditional mediums such as paintings and sculptures for their homes or private collections. This trend continues, although today there is a growing tribe of people who appreciate and also invest in experimental art. In the past, we have seen collectors vying for paintings by S H Raza and Tyeb Mehta amongst others and in the process breaking all previous auction records. Most private museums (with a few exceptions) also tend to focus on collections of modern and contemporary art, yet there is very little space for experimental works.

Still, there is no real reason why people should refrain from buying experimental art, especially if it is of good quality. Interestingly, the quality of such artworks might be difficult to evaluate and its worth or price is largely subjective. Sales are then dependent on the extent to which the art engages the viewer/buyer.

As, art of any kind from emerging artists involves a certain amount of risk from a financial investment angle, it is not surprising that there are more takers for experimental art by established artists than by emerging ones. Only when the market matures further, there might be a shift in perception leading to greater acceptance and appreciation for newer forms of art.

(Published in Financial Times)

Watch This Designer Try Too Hard

I really should get around to writing about industrial designer Richard Arbib. But for now, I'll present a couple of his designs for wrist watches and make a few remarks about wrist watch design in general.

I referred to Arbib as an industrial designer. But his work reveals him to have been mostly an industrial decorator ... to be charitable, "industrial stylist" can do.

The period 1945-60 was an odd one in the annals of American design. A case might be made that cars sporting tail fins, Formica kitchen counter tops with squiggly, linear patterns and molded plywood chairs with spindly metal legs represent a daft era where our national characteristics shone through. Or perhaps it was a "whadda we do next?" phase following the design-purity (with lots of streamlining) public relations poses from the generation of industrial design pioneers. Whatever it might have been, Arbib contributed in spades.

A word about wrist watch design (I'll leave digital watches out of the discussion and stick to analog watches -- those with hands). Watch hands sweep in a circular motion, suggesting that the face of the watch should match this. On the other hand wrist bands, especially rugged ones preferred by men, are flat and basically squared off. A watch following that theme would therefore have a square or rectangular case. Between those extremes might be rounded-off rectangles, ovals and so forth.

Arbib, however, tried something very different in his work for the Hamilton watch company. Something very wacky 1950s.

Hamilton Flight II prototype
Hamilton Altair Electric
Arbib's designs are, well, distinctive. But totally at odds with either the hand-sweep or the watchband. He was involved with styling Hamilton watches for the better part of a decade, so presumably sales were acceptable. I think they look awful and apparently others agree because most watchmakers have avoided such styles for the past 50 years.

Cartier Tank Solo
The "tank" design, dating from the Great War, is a popular example of design that favors integration to the band over honoring the sweep.

Movado Men's Museum Watch
Movado made its fame with ultra-purist sweep-oriented designs such as this. Actually, style trumps functionality here too; the absence of hour indicators requires the owner to guess the time -- and often be off by a minute or even more.

Swiss Army "Renegade"
Confession-time. This is the watch I've been wearing for more than 10 years. Not the same one, actually; I buy a new one every three years or so when I figure the battery is about to fail.

Advantages: It's electronic and so keeps good time. It's not very expensive, currently still selling for less than $150. The hands, hour marks and numerals glow in the dark which make it handy for checking the time while in bed at night. The face cover almost never scratches. While it isn't classy like a Rollex, it looks nice. Disadvantage: The band grooves and holes start to clog after a few months use.


“Pero, ¿qué es lo americano? Desde el punto de vista del sentido común, lo americano es primordialmente lo indígena y en segundo lugar el mundo construido por el hijo del inmigrado. Uno y otro se corresponden respectivamente con lo muerto y lo viviente. Y la arqueología  para desnutrir aún más a lo indígena, de tal modo que subsiste lo inmigrante como única posibilidad.
Pero lo indígena es lo muerto, porque así lo pide la objetividad científica. Lo indio como objeto, dentro del espacio vacío del mundo occidental, es la nada. Y la postura positivista de nuestros arqueólogos se encargó de probarlo, aún cuando éstos sigan a la escuela histórico-cultural. Pero  la objetividad occidental es en el fondo una filosofía del objeto utilizable. La realidad, a partir de Kant, es reconstruíble a partir del sujeto, de tal modo que una realidad, que se da como opuesta, sólo es vista  en función de la utilidad de ese sujeto. Lo indio, en el ámbito de la visión del mundo occidental, no tiene ninguna validez política, social o artística, es decir que no entra vitalmente a formar parte de dicho ámbito. En este sentido lo indio es estrictamente lo muerto y por lo tanto se lo relega al museo como algo monstruoso y aberrado.
Desde el punto de vista histórico ocurre otro tanto. El indígena desaparece con el “descubrimiento”. Y la historia desde entonces  hasta ahora no fue otra cosa que la de la occidentalización de América. Las naciones americanas se crean  en 1810 en función del sujeto kantiano, a partir de categorías y en un espacio geográfico teóricamente vacío.
Pero este proceso iniciado por la fuerza de las armas primero, y luego mantenido por el historiógrafo y el arqueólogo, no impidieron, en el terreno de lo político, la supervivencia, no ya del indio, sino de lo indígena, en su sentido literal de lo autóctono.
Pudo desaparecer, en el caso de Argentina, lo indio como cosa, pero no como estructura.”

“La impresión inmediata del arte indígena es indudablemente el de la monstruosidad. Lo que separa el bajorrelieve de la Puerta del Sol de Tiahuanaco de cualquier obra realizada en Buenos Aires, es lo que media entre lo monstruoso y lo natural como dos mundos opuestos.
Pero lo natural no es más que una tolerancia que hacemos de una serie de hechos repetidos. Y el hecho de estar siempre en las mismas situaciones crea la satisfacción de pertenecer a mundo aparentemente inalterable. Hemos hecho depender de una serie de hechos la estabilidad de nuestra vida. Y la fe en la ciudad surge, porque ella nos garantiza el sustrato lógico, el esquema preestablecido de nuestra vida.
Para un planteo así, se vislumbra a través de la monstruosidad indígena un mundo diferente que participa de una rigurosa alteridad y se rige de acuerdo a valores antagónicos. Y son antagónicos porque más allá del hábito cotidiano aparece en lo indígena la muerte del hábito y en lo más recóndito la sospecha de que lo indígena es el resabio de antiguas luchas superadas. Un acercamiento a lo monstruoso extrañaría, por lo tanto, la negación de nuestra existencia, porque es lo absolutamente opuesto al sentir ciudadano...”

“...En esta integración, el papel que desempeña la magia no es sólo el de una religiosidad rudimentaria sino también el de un cierto estado estético alimentado por una emocionalidad constante...”

                                                                                                                                             RODOLFO KUSCH

Spotted: A Hyper-Fan

I don't know about the rest of you, but the older I get, the less passion I feel about sports and hobbies. I recall pacing back and forth in front of a television set at age 30, agonizing over every play of a playoff or championship football game where one of the teams was a favorite of mine.

As a teenager I went through similar agonies during Gold Cup hydroplane races held in Seattle. The deal at the time was that the winner of the race could choose the site for the following year's race. I and many other locals desperately wanted a "home" boat to win so that Seattle would continue to host the event. It boiled down to a matter of local good-guys versus evil boat owners from Detroit, the other main hub of the sport.

Life went on. I eventually spent about ten years away from the Seattle area, losing touch with hydro racing in the process. Nowadays we sometimes wander down to Lake Washington to catch a few race heats, but I have no special favored boat and don't get cranked up over who wins or loses.

The world is big and not everyone is like me, it seems. From time to time at a place where I occasionally breakfast, I spy this:

It's an old Lincoln sedan with boat wakes painted all over it. On the top is a model hydro complete with simulated "rooster tail" spray. The hood holds models of three hydros -- the pink one is of Edgar Kaiser's "Hawaii Kai" which raced in the late 1950s. Flanking models sport faux-rooster-tails, but have no livery paint-jobs.

The owner of the car is a gent of about my vintage who clearly never let go the passions of his early youth. And he has a truly understanding and supportive wife who's sometimes willing to ride with him in that car on a breakfast jaunt.

Parting thought: I wonder if this is his only car.

Art Buzz (Mumbai) Shezad Dawood

Art Buzz (New Delhi) Dual Liquid by Sumedh Rajendran

Where Do I Find These Artists' Works?

In a couple of weeks I'll be off to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Of course I'll do my best to hit the Prado and other important Madrid shrines such as the Joaquin Sorolla home/museum. I'll be in Barcelona for a few days towards the end of the trip as well as in-between places such as Toledo, Lisbon, Seville, Granada, Marrakesh and Fez.

Here's a list of a miscellany of late-19th, early-20th century Spanish painters whose work I'm curious to see in person. Has anyone out there been to museums in the cities noted above and noticed any works by these artists?

  • Hermenegildo (Hermen) Anglada-Camarasa
  • Manuel Benedito Vivas
  • Ramon Casas i Carbo
  • Raimundo Madrazo y Garrata
  • Luis Muntane Muns
  • Antonio Ortiz Echague
  • Francisco Pons Arnau
  • Santiago Rusinyol
I'm particularly interested in works by Casas. Also of interest are suggestions you might have regarding other not-so-well-known painters whose work can be seen along my itinerary. Expect some reports once I return towards the end of October.

MAX BECKMANN, introduciéndonos en el expresionismo.

Como no podía ser de otra forma, la exposición tantas veces mencionada, de Realismos Modernos que tuvo lugar en el Thyssen de Madrid, nos dio también opción de admirar a más de un artista encuadrado en el expresionismo alemán.

ARTISTAS de MAX BECKMANN 1948 (Thyssen Bornemisza Foundation. Lugano)

El expresionismo abarcó mucho más que la pintura. Como tantos otros movimientos fue un revulsivo, no solo artístico, sino social. En el plano artístico podríamos decir que fue una respuesta al impresionismo y al naturalismo. En el ámbito social surgió en el momento de la guerra mundial, en países en que el nazismo iba a extender su mano poderosa. Sus componentes, en general, pertenecían a la burguesía.

Artísticamente hablando no se puede decir que estuviera integrado por artistas de una sola tendencia o disciplina. Podemos encontrar expresionistas en escultura, en las artes escénicas, en la música, en literatura o en la pintura. De esta última disciplina vamos a ocuparnos aquí. Dentro de la pintura el expresionismo aglutinó a muy diferentes artistas, aunque todos ellos tenían algo en común: Ser rompedores con las tendencias que habían imperado hasta ese momento, estar profundamente afectados por la guerra, hasta el punto de caer en un terrible pesimismo que se expresaba en sus obras, y ser europeos.

Es interesante hacer esta pequeña observación porque el expresionismo en sí se entiende como una deformación de la realidad para expresar de una forma subjetiva los sentimientos de los humanos y ante eso, esta forma de expresión puede ser ubicada en cualquier época y lugar. Así podemos, por ejemplo, calificar de expresionista la obra de Brueghel el Viejo y sin lugar a dudas la de Francisco de Goya.

Entre los referentes cercanos en el tiempo, dos son los pintores que se mencionan como precursores del expresionismo: Gaugin y Van-Gogh. Y no solo por la factura de su obra, sino por la carga psicológica de ella.

Y si nos atenemos a lo anterior, encontramos a grandes pintores en tierras americanas como el ecuatoriano Guayasamín (este blog 28 agosto 2009) o los muralistas mexicanos Orozco (este blog 5 octubre 2009) y Siqueiros (este blog 24 septiembre 2009) entre otros, que nos impactan con sus obras de clara factura expresionista.

COLLAGE . Obras de varios expresionistas.

Sucede también que al ser un movimiento difícil de precisar se incluye en él a pintores que estuvieron en oposición o que, en un momento dado, se enfrentaron al impresionismo, como es el caso de Munch o de algunos “fauvistas”. Por otro lado hay que tener en cuenta que muchos pintores fueron “expresionistas” en un momento determinado de su vida profesional y así han sido catalogados en la historia del arte, sin que su trayectoria total, permaneciera fiel a este movimiento.

Socialmente hablando, el término peyorativo utilizado por los nacionalsocialistas para denominar al arte expresionista fue el de “Arte degenerado” que se utilizaba también para designar a todas las tendencias del arte moderno prohibidas por razones de ideología. Recordemos la persecución a los componentes de “La Bauhaus” (este blog 16 mayo 2010)

Hagamos una breve reseña del movimiento en sí, antes de introducir al pintor que hoy nos ocupa.

Centrándonos en las características de la pintura encuadrada en este movimiento, diremos que los expresionistas expresa la realidad de manera casi violenta y provocadora, deformando formas y empleando una paleta de fuertes colores. Recibieron influencias, tanto de los post-impresionistas como de los simbolistas, y también encontraron fuente de inspiración en culturas de Africa y Oceanía.

El Expresionismo surgió en Alemania entre 1900 y 1925 y ha sido dividido en dos grandes grupos. El llamado “El Puente” (Die Brücke) creado en Dresde en 1905, con sus cuatro fundadores, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Kart Schmidt-Rottuluff y Bleyl, a los que se unieron por un tiempo, Max Pechstein, Otto Müller y Emil Nolde. Este grupo se desplazaría a Berlín posteriormente.

Y “El Jinete Azul” (Der Blaue Reiter) que se formó en Munich en 1911 y que recibió una fuerte influencia del cubismo y del futurismo ya que fueron muchos artistas extranjeros los que se integraron en él. Además de Franz Marc (alemán), encontramos al ruso Kandinsky (este blog fecha 13 junio 2010) cuyo lienzo, “El jinete azul” dio nombre al grupo, al suizo Klee (este blog 30 mayo 2010 ) a Gabriele Münter y algunos más.


Aunque estos son los dos grandes grupos en que se ha dado en dividir el Expresionismo, también hay teóricos que fragmentan más esta división. Así pues, se habla de un Expresionismo del Norte de Alemania en el que se incluiría, entre otros, a Christian Rohlfs y Paula Modersohn, el Expresionismo Renano en el que encontraríamos a August Macke o Wihltelm Morgner y el Expresionismo Vienés con Oskar Kokoschka y Egon Shiele como máximos representantes.

Algunos de estos artistas nos visitarán en estos Encuentros, pero hoy vamos a dedicar este espacio a Max Beckman.


Max Beckmann nació en Leipzin (Alemania) en 19884. Estudió en la Escuela de Arte de Weimar, pasó un año en París y posteriormente se estableció en Berlín. A diferencia de otros expresionistas era un académico con prestigio, que se movía a gusto en los ambientes impresionistas.


Fue después de servir como soldado en la Primera Guerra Mundial, cuando sufrió una gran transformación que iba a afectar a su obra artística. En 1925 se trasladó a Frankfurt, en cuya Escuela de Arte impartió enseñanza y de dónde la persecución nazi le expulsó. Primero se vio obligado a dejar su puesto de trabajo y más tarde Alemania. Pasó a París y a Ámsterdam en 1938. Años más tarde abandonaría Europa rumbo a EEUU en dónde pasaría los últimos años de su vida.


Sus primeras obras, como las de algunos expresionistas, mantuvieron aún influencias del impresionismo y también del simbolismo.

EL LIDO 1924

Su madurez le llegó, como hemos mencionado, después de la experiencia de la guerra mundial. Su “Cuadro de familia” realizado en 1920 presenta ya una imagen fuerte y potente. Las figuras aparecen con cabezas enormes y en espacios reducidos. Las obras de esa época quieren manifestar lo brutal de la sociedad del momento.


Incluso sus naturalezas muertas y paisajes tienen el mismo estilo agresivo y sombrío.


Poco a poco, y sobre todo gracias al contacto con la pintura francesa, los tonos se vuelven más claros. No obstante sus formas siguieron siendo más enérgicas y más violentas, si cabe.


Esto se aprecia en toda una serie de trípticos que realizó entre los años 1930 y 1940 como “El gallo ciego, “Argonautas” y algunos otros. En su obra también incluyó aguafuertes y litografías en color.


En el año 1937, Beckmann es uno de los componentes de la exposición que reunió a casi todos los artistas de finales del XIX y principios del XX, entre los que se encontraban los artistas del grupo Die Brücke y muchos otros expresionistas. Dicen que la exposición atrajo a millones de visitantes y fue un enorme éxito. Fue entonces cuando la campaña del nacionalsocialismo contra el arte moderno cobro fuerza y confiscó pinturas, grabados y esculturas que no cumplían con el ideal estético exigido por ellos.

También en esa misma línea de represión, se apartó de los puestos de trabajo a artistas como Paul Klee y se cerró la Bauhaus.


El cuadro titulado La Partida que se encuentra en el MOMA de Nueva York, expresa la consternación del artista ante el avance del nacionalsocialismo. Lo pintó después de que los nazis lo apartaran del cargo de profesor de Arte de la Escuela de Frankfurt, según ellos por ser un degenerado. También en ese lienzo es dónde su formación tradicional, unida a la simbología que emplea, en ocasiones difícil de descifrar, se hace muy evidente.


A Beckmann esa guerra que le había hecho enfrentarse a una cruel realidad, unida a su formación clásica con influencia de Brueghel (este blog 7 de mayo 2009) y de El Bosco, le convierte en un pintor de formas duras y marcadas, casi escultóricas y de fuerte dramatismo.


No tuvo una actividad política definida pero su obra fue fruto de lo que vio y sufrió. En marzo de 1919 y tras una visita a Berlín, creará los grabados de “El infierno” que no es otra cosa que el retrato de la ciudad que ve.

LA NOCHE 1918-1919

Lienzos como “La noche” son una muestra de la vida cotidiana, violenta y cruel. En ellos aparecen figuras torturadas y retorcidas.

Tampoco la ciudad con sus edificios se libraron de su visión “deformada” que nos dice mucho de sus angustias. Su interpretación del paisaje urbano es así igualmente exagerada.


Un cuadro que se nos presenta con una paleta más colorista, aún siendo un nocturno, es “La sinagoga”. No obstante, también su perspectiva es deforme, alargada y hasta el colorido resulta un tanto violento. La sinagoga de Frankfurt es parte del barrio judío que aparece así representado.


En 1938 todas las sinagogas de Frankfurt fueron incendiadas y demolidas posteriormente.

PERSEUS 1940-41

Max Beckan a pesar de las penurias no dejó nunca de pintar y logró terminar los nueve trípticos que había comenzado en 1932.


Cuando en 1947 acepto el puesto de profesor en EEUU ya estaba gravemente enfermo del corazón.


En 1950 murió en N.York. Había recibido hacía poco tiempo el Premio de la Bienal de Venecia. Dejó una obra extensa que le sitúa como uno de los grandes expresionistas de la Historia del Arte. Un gran pintor que dejó su dolor y su pesimismo plasmados en sus lienzos.


NOTA: Para mejor visualizar la fotografía “picar” con el ratón encima de las que interesen.

Para la lectura de entradas anteriores, ir a la ventana de la derecha y “picar” en los años y meses. Se desplegarán los títulos correspondientes a cada fecha.

Fuentes consultadas:

Realismos modernos. Varios autores (Edición para exposición del Thyssen de Madrid)

Expresionismo. Dietmar Elger (Editorial Taschen)

Arte del Siglo XX .Varios autores (Editorial Taschen)

350 obras del Museum of Modern Art of N.York

Fotografías: Las mismas. Archivo propio. La red