Max Beckmann's experiences with the brutality of war inspired his artwork.
As a German artist in the early 20th century, Beckmann's experiences with two world wars influenced his paintings. During World War I, Beckmann witnessed the brutality of war firsthand in his post as a medical orderly. Many of his artworks following the war contained scenes that were dark, violent and cynical.
By the time Beckmann painted The Skaters, his subjects had lightened a bit. They still contained elements of pessimism and mystery, as we can see in The Skaters. Even though the subject matter of ice-skaters is lighthearted, the dark lines and unusual configuration of the people create a puzzling scene.
Beckmann enjoyed a prosperous career during the 1920s and early 1930s. His success provided him with the means to travel frequently. For the 1931/32 New Year's holiday, he vacationed in Garmisch, a popular German resort known for its wintertime activities. Undoubtedly, ice-skating was one of many activities he witnessed during the holiday, and the inspiration for this painting.
Beckmann's life changed dramatically during World War II. Hitler condemned Beckmann and other German modern artists for creating art that was not realistic, and penalized artists who did not work in the approved Nazi style. A short time later, Beckmann left Berlin and moved to Amsterdam. He never returned to Germany again.