Max Beckmann Expressionismus Existenzialismus Exil

Beckmann „Die Reise“ als Druckversion (PDF mit Abb. u. Fn. 3.121 KB)

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Max Beckmann: Die Reise (1944)

in: Expressiv! Expressive Tendenzen in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, Katalog Fondation Beyeler, München/New York 2003, S. 122-123.

Beckmanns Expressionismus ist ein Existenzialismus. „Dieser unendliche Raum“, schreibt er 1915, „dessen Vordergrund man immer wieder mit etwas Gerümpel anfüllen muss, damit man seine schaurige Tiefe nicht so sieht. Was würden wir armen Menschen machen, wenn wir uns nicht immer wieder eine Idee schaffen würden von Vaterland, Liebe, Kunst und Religion, mit der wir das finstre schwarze Loch immer wieder so ein bisschen verdecken können. Dieses grenzenlose Verlassensein in der Ewigkeit. Dieses Alleinsein. “ Beckmanns Weltbild prägt sich in den Verheerungen des ersten Weltkriegs, später als Exilant des Dritten Reiches in Paris und Amsterdam. Er wird zum Maler der Conditio humana seiner Epoche, die er in einer Mischung aus Sachlichkeit und allegorischer Chiffrierung zu erfassen versucht. Die Malerei bedeutet für Beckmann aber nicht allein die Darstellung menschlicher Existenz, sondern vielmehr die eigentliche Konkretion, die sich der von ihm als unwirklich und gespenstisch erfahrenen Wirklichkeit entgegensetzen lässt, ihm „Sicherheit gibt gegen die Unendlichkeit des Raums.“

Im traumartigen Bild Die Reise (Öl auf Leinwand, 90 x 145 cm, Privatbesitz) verdecken ein Figurenfries und eine bildparallel geführte Eisenbahn das Nirgendwo, in dem sich die Szene abspielt, die „schaurige Tiefe“, die an den Bildrändern und in der Lücke zwischen Lokomotive und Waggon gleichwohl sichtbar wird. Aus dem Zug winken uniformierte Männer heftig erregt den auf dem Bahnsteig wartenden Menschen zu, einem Hotelboy, einer Krankenschwester sowie zwei Prostituierten. Letztere dürften zugleich, wie die Koffer zu lesen geben, als Allegorien zweier wichtiger Lebensorte Beckmanns zu deuten sein: Berlin und Paris. An der Seite der „Berlinerin“ sitzt eine verhüllte, weinende Frau – sowohl ein Sinnbild der Zerstörung der Stadt als auch von Beckmanns Unvermögen, dorthin zurückzukehren. Nicht nur das Gestikulieren der Uniformierten, sondern auch die Bewegungsrichtungen der beiden Frauen laufen diametral auseinander. Während die „Berlinerin“ sich abwendet, scheint die „Pariserin“ dem Zug dorthin nachzuwinken, wohin er aufbrechen wird. Dadurch wird das Bild von seiner Mitte her förmlich zerrissen. Mit dem Aufbruch verbindet sich keine in die Zukunft weisende Zuversicht. Eher droht dieser die labile Gegenwart zu zerbrechen und das Wenige an Raum, das durch die Plastizität und die Figurenkonstellation entstanden ist, wieder aufzulösen. Zur Entstehungszeit des Bildes, 1944, als die Deutschen an allen Fronten zurückgeschlagen werden, denkt Beckmann über die Emigration in die Vereinigten Staaten nach. Eine Rückkehr ins zerstörte Deutschland lehnt er ab, den gescheiterten Versuch der Vorkriegsjahre, sich in Paris durchzusetzen, wird er nicht wiederholen. Die Reise allegorisiert den Aufbruch zu einem dritten, ungewissen Ort.

Bewegung und Stillstand, angstvolles Verharren und Vorwärtsstürmen fliessen ineinander. Möglich wird dies durch die ornamentalen Lineamente, welche die Figuren in großzügigen Schwüngen übergreifen. Beckmann legte seine Bilder zunächst mit Kohlestrichen an, die er aus dem vollen Schwung des Armes direkt auf die Leinwand zeichnete und im Verlauf des Malprozesses durch Konturen aus Ölfarbe ersetzte. Das Verfahren erzeugt Kontinuität und Diskontinuität in einem. Die in dichtem Schwarz um die Figuren gelegten Konturen verbinden die einzelnen Bildelemente miteinander, schneiden aber auch lauter isolierte Bildflächen aus, über deren Farbe und Erscheinungsweise je einzeln entschieden wird – was den für Beckmanns Spätwerk typischen Glasfenster-Effekt erzeugt. Dem Widerstreit zwischen linearer Kontinuität und farblicher Diskontinuität gesellen sich weitere Antagonismen hinzu: zwischen leuchtender, beinahe pastellener Farbigkeit und dichtem Schwarz, zwischen ornamentaler Flächigkeit und stellenweise fast greifbarer Plastizität, zwischen der Gravität der Körper und der Leere des Raums. Dies alles steigert den Widerstreit in der Figurengruppe, der durch die auseinanderlaufenden Bewegungsimpulse und die divergierenden Verhaltensformen der Figuren aufbricht. Beckmanns Bild baut einen physischen und psychischen Druck auf, der das Bild beinahe beben lässt. „Auf der Suche nach der Heimat, aber er hatte sein Daheim auf dem Wege verloren“, notiert Beckmann im Januar 1943 in sein Tagebuch; und wenig später, ebenso trotzig wie resigniert: „Den festen Entschluss – trotz gehen oder nicht gehen – dieses Leben zu Ende zu leben.“

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