In The Night (1919), Beckmann reveals his own nihilistic worldview. Though not a battle scene, the painting depicts a man being brutally strangled while his wife is seen stripped and bound to a beam with a clear suggestion that she has been raped. The claustrophobic and angular environment seems to entrap both victims and aggressors, offering no escape from the pointless suffering.
Post-war society appeared to offer new opportunities to women, both professionally and socially, and Weimar’s famous cabaret scene, which welcomed gay men and women, posited a relaxing of conservative morals. Yet there was a sense among artists that these liberties came at the expense of weaker members of society, particularly war veterans. At the same time, women’s new economic and social power aroused antipathy among certain artists.
The central panel of Dix’s triptych Metropolis (1927–28) features a raucous nightclub scene in which an archetypal “new woman,” identified by her fashionable flapper outfit and closely cropped haircut, flaunts her newfound social freedom, while in the left and right panels, homeless, war-injured cripples are ignored by a series of gaudily attired prostitutes. In Grosz’s Suicide (1916), the action seems to have played out on a stage; the two men performed their deaths for the benefit of a prostitute, who gazes out indifferently from a curtained window.