German Expressionism

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Johannes Presse, Vienna

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About this work

Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

In six penetrating drypoints, Beckmann drew out the conflicting emotions underlying his first play, Ebbi, which he described as a "modern Hamlet." The sharply rendered comedic scenes and absurdist hallucinations express his simultaneous disdain and desire for the comforts of middle-class life.

Bored and restless, Eberhard Kautsch (Ebbi) yearns to become a poet and lead a life unencumbered by his dull family, the daily drudgery of office work, and hemorrhoids. Johanna Löffel, a seductive young painter, spirits him away to a cheap brothel, where his impotence mirrors his inability to overcome conventional morality. There they meet a thug recently released from jail, Jakob Nipsel, whom Beckmann modeled on himself in the illustrations. A wild night of cocaine-induced hallucinations follows. The trio then breaks into the apartment of Ebbi's nouveau-riche friends. Realizing he cannot stomach robbery and murder, Ebbi saves the doorman from Nipsel's violence and returns, a hero, to bourgeois life.

In addition to Ebbi, Beckmann wrote two other plays, neither of which was a theatrical success. Ebbi itself was not performed until 1980. After Beckmann's frequent publisher Reinhard Piper declined to publish the play, Otto Nirenstein agreed to issue a small edition of thirty-three copies through his Johannes-Presse in 1924, and commissioned the illustrations from the artist.

Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950)

Plate (facing page 44) from Ebbi

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The artist
Drypoint from an illustrated book with six drypoints
plate: 7 3/4 x 5 3/4" (19.7 x 14.6 cm); page: 13 x 9 5/16" (33 x 23.7 cm)
Cream, smooth, wove.
Johannes Presse, Vienna
Printer of Plates:
Rudolf Lauterbach, Vienna
Printer of Text:
H. Engel & Sohn, Vienna
33, signed and numbered I-XXXIII at the colophon, on wove paper; plus unknown number of unnumbered copies reserved for the artist
Credit Line:
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Gallwitz 276 (left side). Hofmaier 308 II B.
MoMA Number:
City Life, Literary Subjects

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