The great whore Babylon (Revelation XVII, 1–2)

Max Beckmann, Illustrations for Apokalypse, The great whore Babylon (Revelation XVII, 1–2), 1941-1942, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart.

Max Beckmann (1884–1950) was a German artist/thinker who attained great success during the Weimar Republic. His fortunes changed with the rise of the Nazi government who proclaimed him a "cultural Bolshevik" and dismissed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt. He fled to Amsterdam where he remained for the rest of the war. In 1941 he received this commission from Georg Hartmann, the owner of the Bauer Type Foundry in Frankfurt upon Main. Georg Hartmann’s intent was to publish the Apocalypse as a private edition and present it to his closest friends and colleagues as a gift. To avoid the Nazi censors, the official print run came to just 24 copies. Both sponsor and artist were conscious of the reference to the apocalypse of their own period. The work on the Apocalypse became an act of salvation for Beckmann and his diaries make plain his struggles with the work and with working under the frequent air attacks. Beckmann's Whore of Babylon departs from the classical metaphor for sin and has more of a flavor of cynical wartime victim or collaborator.  

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