Begin the Beguine

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Interior composition with male and female dancers positioned at center with seated female at lower left, standing male on crutches at right and a group of birds in the leftmost background.
Max Beckmann
"Begin the Beguine" refers to a Cole Porter song (from the 1935 musical "Jubilee") that had become a popular big band standard in Artie Shaw's 1938 clarinet recording. The song's title can been seen at the lower left and the invocation of Cole Porter's sophistication stands in sharp contrast to the disturbing visual imagery within the composition. Distorted space, mutilated limbs, an acidic palette communicate Beckmann's ambivalence toward American culture as well as his attraction to cabaret.
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