During the summer of 1924 Beckmann travelled with his wife Minna and their son Peter to Italy. They spent two weeks in Pirano on the Adriatic Sea, a trip that inspired Beckmann to paint Lido (1924) and Italian Fantasy (1925). The following year Beckmann again travelled to Italy, this time on honeymoon with his second wife Mathilde von Kaulbach. After their return Beckmann painted The Bark (1926). At first, these scenes of holidaymakers at the beach seem light and playful. The figures, however, are strangely enigmatic. In Lido, two women in the foreground walk veiled along the beach; and in The Bark the figures in the centre of the painting appear to be performing a mysterious ritual.

Beckmann’s trips to Italy coincided with the early years of Mussolini’s rule, and a period of increasing nationalism. The red, green and white colour-scheme in these paintings refers to the Italian flag and reflects Beckmann’s awareness of the political situation. The tricolour flag appears most prominently in Galleria Umberto (1925), a more overtly dramatic painting that depicts a mutilated corpse hanging from the ceiling, while another person drowns in the foreground. The painting can be interpreted as a visionary depiction of the rising tide of Fascism.