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This work depicts the famous Parisian restaurant Prunier. Beckmann had frequented the restaurant in the early 1930s, but at the time of this work he was living in exile in German-occupied Amsterdam. Wartime conditions were spartan. This may account for Beckmann calling the picture ’Gobblers’ in his diary, and for the brutality with which his figures devour luxurious seafood. Beckmann suffered from heart trouble shortly after beginning the painting, so that the contrast between his daily, wartime realities and the sensual pleasure conjured up in the painting may suggest a meditation on mortality.

July 2008