An extinguished black candle, three tortured skulls, playing cards... Max Beckmann creates a landscape of mememto moris in Still Life with Three Skulls to tell a dark refugee story. Matthew Rose says it best.
Max Beckmann’s Still Life with Three Skulls (1945) is more of a damning paean to the death culture of Nazi Germany than a reminder of the artist’s own death. The artist had fled Germany in 1937 for Amsterdam and the thick black outlines round the trio of cartoonish skulls, playing cards and an extinguished candle on a table echo a darkness war refugees fully understand. According to The Museum of Fine Art in Boston where this work hangs, the still life was produced during the final months of World War II. Beckmann said it was “a truly grotesque time, full to the brim with work, Nazi persecutions, bombs, hunger.” -Matthew Rose