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This article is taken from PN Review 231, Volume 43 Number 1, September - October 2016.

Lecture Michael Heller
I AM AGAIN with Beckmann and Yeats, but who am I not with?

Beckmann’s 1931 Paris exhibition had one constant observer, Picasso, who came every day to look and to borrow. Beckmann disdained the Cubists for their unseemly decorative style, yet he held Picasso in high regard, carrying a catalogue of his works on his travels.

Who am I not walking with, walking like Bashō, stopping at a shrine, experiencing awe and reverence, the surround of mountain peak and foliage, the pines he likened to solitary figures?

Who is not solitary and does not wander and does not find, as Yeats found those mystical selves, those Maud Gonnes, their histories – as here I find paintings and photographs – the voices from the beyond, but also the violence and murder they depict?

Which returns me to Beckmann, which in turn makes me write of these two, these Virgils and Dantes of my psyche – my psyche – not my thought – because this Yeats and this Beckmann uncover for me what wells up, what morphs from one act to another, from passion to cold hate, fuelled not by a grievance but by a necessity that makes thoughts of optimism or pessimism irrelevant.

To my remembering how the Feigin Gallery’s 2004 exhibit made for a curious space in which Picasso and Beckmann circled each other, shapes flew back and forth across the gallery, ovoids, faces, bodies, frescoed, flattened and broken up, diligent, violent exchanges that echoed and re-echoed through their ...

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