Oil on canvas
Framed: 125 x 178.5 x 8.5 cm (49 3/16 x 70 1/4 x 3 3/8 in.); Unframed: 89.4 x 142 cm (35 3/16 x 55 7/8 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange 2013.7
The reclining figure encircled by the griffin's tail at the far right may be the artist's self-portrait.
This painting depicts Perseus, a celebrated warrior from Greek mythology whose name derives from the Greek word "to waste, ravage, sack, destroy." Perseus’s most famous feat was cutting off Medusa’s head. Yet, the mass slaughter depicted here is not found in the ancient myth, but instead suggests a nightmarish allegory filled with private, enigmatic symbols, perhaps reflecting Beckmann’s experience of barely surviving two world wars. Traumatized while serving as a medical orderly during WWI, Beckmann later became the target of Nazi persecution. In 1947 he immigrated to the United States. Created in the aftermath of the Holocaust and under the Cold War threat of nuclear annihilation, this painting suggests a bitter critique of mankind’s propensity for destruction. Presenting Perseus in female dress subverts the hypermasculine glamorization of military heroes common to national historical myths.
The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.
All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.