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About this illustrated book
Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.
In Stephan Lackner's play Der Mensch ist kein Haustier (Man is not a domestic animal), a violent revolution has unleashed uncontrollable forces in an unnamed land. Felix Faber, logical and heartless, heads the overthrow; his henchman, Peter Giel, betrays him out of love for Duchess Louise. The story follows these three main characters, whose lives remain intertwined as they make their way through the new world.
In 1936 Lackner, then living in exile in Paris, commissioned Beckmann to illustrate his play. At the time, the playwright described himself as "Beckmann's student in a different medium," and stated that Beckmann's art and vision of the world as a theater were the inspiration for the play's main characters. Beckmann, upon reading the finished draft, marveled at the similarities of their ideas. The artist completed the seven lithographs, his first since 1923, shortly after fleeing Nazi Germany in summer 1937. He visited Lackner in Paris, where he signed the prints—an activity that he said reminded him "of better days"—in September. The book was published later that fall. Beckmann's illustrations, in which he gave Giel his own features, focus on the human responses to the upheaval, showing emotional scenes of love, intoxication, and destruction.