Max Beckmann The Grenade (Die Granate) printed 1915, published 1918

  • Not on view

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.’”

plate: 15 5/16 x 11 3/8" (38.9 x 28.9 cm); sheet (irreg.): 21 1/4 x 17 11/16" (54 x 45 cm)
Paul Cassirer, Berlin
probably Pan-Presse, Berlin
Mary Ellen Meehan Fund, Johanna and Leslie J. Garfield Fund, and Frances Keech Fund
Object number
© 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Drawings and Prints
Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Private collector, Germany; sold through Christies's London, June 27, 1991 (lot 3) to Alice Adam Ltd., Chicago, 1996; sold to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996

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