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The Skaters




key idea
The Skaters portrays life as an uncertain balancing act.

What words would you use to describe a skilled ice skater? Graceful? Elegant?

The skaters in this painting are far from elegant - they struggle just to keep balanced. Two men unsteadily lift a woman into the air. Her legs fly into the air as she leans on the men for support. The men totter on their skates under her weight, trying to stay upright. A waiter balances trays full of champagne glasses in the middle of the commotion.

The artist emphasizes this unbalanced feeling with diagonal lines. Legs and arms, the trays of champagne glasses, and the skate blades all form slanted lines that make us feel that the group could topple at any moment. The sloping door on the left and the wobbly flagpole on the right echo this instability. Is anything in this world stable?

Why would the artist create such an unsteady scene? Beckmann often included acrobats and other circus performers in his works of art to make a statement about man's unstable existence. In this work of art, the skaters' unsteady positions send the same message: life is uncertain.

December 2003