Artist’s Notebook – Bad Boy by Artist Eric Fischl

Bad Boy - A Memoir by Eric Fischl
Bad Boy – A Memoir by Eric Fischl

I am currently reading “Bad Boy: A Memoir” by Artist Eric Fischl.

The book came out in 2013, but somehow I missed it.

The reviews on Amazon say that the first half is really good, while the second half is a bit repetitive and slow. I am about the 20% through the memoir and I would say it is one of the better art books.

I have always felt close to Eric Fischl’s and his experience as an artist. The fact that he came of age when realism, and particularly narrative-figurative art, was out of fashion is something that I can really relate to. As I have mentioned before, my art was not well received when I first made the rounds.

When Eric Fischl hits it big in the early 1980s, the critics barely gave him any credit, saying that his painting skills were less than great. If I remember correctly, he then went to Italy (mid-1990s?) for a few years; to study the masters and to strengthen his painting technique.

The results of this effort was even more amazing work.

I love this passage from the first part of the book:

“Art is a process and a journey. All artists have to find ways to lie to themselves, find ways to fool themselves into believing that what they’re doing is good enough, the best they can do at that movement, and that’s okay. Every work of art falls short of what the artist envisioned. It is precisely that gap between their intention and their execution that opens up the door for the next work.”

I will keep you posted on how the book turns out.

Max Beckmann Book Review

Max Beckmann by Reinhard Spieler (2014)
Max Beckmann by Reinhard Spieler (2014)

Beckmann by Reinhard Spieler provides an excellent overview of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.


Max Beckmann (1884-1950) was an amazing artist who experienced three period of fame: the pre-war period, the Weimar Republic years, and the late 1940s. After suffering a nervous breakdown during the First World War, Beckmann re-invents his art to reflect the new conditions. During the 1920s, he is often associated with other social critics of German society like Otto Dix and George Grosz. Beckmann’s art, however, reflects a deeper struggle with self. As a result, Beckmann continued to grow and develop even when the Weimar period came to an end.


With the rise of the Nazism, Beckmann falls out of favour and goes into seclusion. This isolation allows the artist to develop independently from the influences occurring elsewhere in the world.


With the end of World War Two, Beckmann moves to the United States and starts his finally period of success. Beckmann dies suddenly of a heart attack in December 1950 at the age of 66.


Over the years, I have read a lot of books on Beckmann and this 2011 work by Taschen is one of the best. Not only does it includes excellent quality reproductions, but it also reflects some of the latest research on Beckmann’s landscapes and still life portraits, works that represent almost half of his artistic output.


Beckman: the Still Lifes by Anna Heinze Kelly and Simon (Nov 2014); Max Beckmann: the Landscapes by Hans Belting &Berhard Mendes Burgi (2011)
Beckman: the Still Lifes by Anna Heinze & Simon Kelly (2014); Max Beckmann: the Landscapes by Hans Belting & Berhard Mendes Burgi (2011)

I would strongly recommend the following books: Max Beckman: the Still Lifes by Anna Heinze and Simon Kelly (Nov 2014);  and Max Beckmann: the Landscapes by Hans Belting and Berhard Mendes Burgi that was published in Dec 2011.


Spieler did his 1997 Ph.D. thesis on Beckmann’s triptychs and was recently appointed Director of the Sprengel Museum. Hopefully, Spieler will find times to write additional books on Beckmann’s self-portraits and his prints; two areas that have not been recently examined or published in English.


As an artist, I would hope someone would publish a book on his materials and techniques.  If you are interested in Beckmann then the above mention books are essentially readings.


Chris Erskine