An explosive in the top right of The Grenade is the epicenter for a burst of energy that spreads chaos throughout the scene. Smoke billows and figures topple in gestures of pain and panic. The flattened perspective pushes the figures to the edges of the composition, where they remained trapped.
Before World War I, Max Beckmann did not appreciate the Expressionist’s use of color and abstraction to convey an inner world. After he was released from the army in 1915, the year this print was made, he began to experiment with their printmaking techniques—especially drypoints and etching—as a way to communicate his wartime experiences. He wrote, “What is important to me in my work is the identity that is hidden behind so-called reality. I search for a bridge from the given present to the invisible, rather as a famous cabalist once said, ‘If you wish to grasp the invisible, penetrate as deeply as possible into the visible.’”