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This work represents the climax of Carnival, a season of fancy dress parties, masked balls and street processions with wild music and dancing. The two figures are based on close friends of the artist, who is possibly represented by the masked clown. Beckmann’s work, with its grotesque and distorted figures, epitomised what the Nazis considered to be ‘degenerate’ art. He was dismissed from his teaching post in Frankfurt in 1933. Several of his works were included in the 1937 Degenerate Art show, prompting him to leave Germany for Amsterdam.

February 2016