Max Beckmann, Birthday Clown
Self portrait as a clown
Max BeckmannSelf portrait as a clown1921Von-der-Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal

One of the great German Expressionists, Max Beckmann (born this day in 1884) often painted clowns and carnival imagery to convey the climate of post-war Germany—a commentary on the circus of life much like the fools depicted by Shakespeare and Goya. In Self portrait as a clown, Beckmann depicts himself as a costumed circus character, but only a fool would dare ask for explanation: “If people cannot understand it themselves with the help of their own inner world, it makes no sense to show the thing,” he once wrote.