MAX BECKMANN: Adam and Eve (1917)
German painter Max Beckmann began his painting of Adam and Eve in 1913, only to have his work on it interrupted by World War One, where he served as a medical orderly, and saw more than his share of horrors. He completed it in 1917. There is an overwhelming seediness to the picture, and the mismatched couple seem more like a drunk and a whore rather than the Biblical first of the line - even the tree between them resembles a lamp post on the Reeperbahn. In a grey, wan light they stand, seemingly mid-transaction: him witless, awkward, gormless; her, looking older than him, proffering a breast, perhaps as an inducement to eat the apple the eared serpent lurking behind her has provocatively supplied. A daffodil provides the one bright spot in an otherwise pretty dismal Eden.