The traumas of the First World War and its immediate aftermath are reflected in the angular, expressive style that began to emerge in Beckmann’s prints. In The Grenade (1916), for example, Beckmann emphasised the chaotic effects of an explosion in the trenches with nervous and scratchy black lines. In Resurrection (1918) he similarly employs harsh, angular lines to depict anguished figures in a disjointed landscape. It conveys the feeling of a doomsday battlefield, without hope of salvation. Beckmann kept a painted version of this Resurrection scene in his studio for many years.

In the Hell portfolio (1919) Beckmann depicts the barbarity of life in post-war Germany. He draws a crippled war veteran, starvation, the brutal torture of a family, and the senseless fights between Communists, Socialists and Nationalists. Though disillusioned with the futility of the human condition, Beckmann did not shrink away from the harsh reality that surrounded him. In his work, he embraced every facet of life, grimly recording even the ugliest details.