Throughout his career, Beckmann conceived of himself as a painter and printmaker. In the mid-1930s, he nevertheless began working three-dimensionally. Eight of his sculptures – cast in bronze only after his death – survived. They are closely related to his two-dimensional works in terms of form and content alike. Adam and Eve bears a reference to one of Beckmann’s key motifs, the conflict between the sexes. He endowed the figure of Adam with self-portrait-like features and placed a tiny Eve in his right hand. A serpent portends the impending calamity, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Having wound its way around Adam’s body, it looks out at us over his shoulder. In deliberate defiance of the bodily ideal propagated by the National Socialists – who had treated the artist with immense hostility – the figure of Adam is crudely and clumsily formed. It was during the presentation of his works in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition that Beckmann left Germany and went into exile in Holland.
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