This second article about René Beeh (1886–1922) commemorates the centenary of his death, and continues from the first.
At the end of the war, Beeh illustrated two more books, the 1918 edition of Jeremias Gotthelf’s allegorical novella The Black Spider (1842), and the 1920 edition of August Strindberg’s autobiographical novel Inferno, which had first been published in 1898.
Written by the Swedish playwright and writer in French, Inferno presents a probably exaggerated account of the author’s life in Paris and his subsequent travel. He dabbles in his favourite obsessions, including alchemy, the occult and the teachings of the mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Beeh produced a limited edition of 300 sets of twenty lithographs which can be seen here.
Beggars is an assortment of people from the street life of the city, and probably includes veterans of the Great War.
Street Café (Brasserie des Lilas) refers to a café where Strindberg proclaimed that drinking absinthe at six o’clock was his last vice. This later became a favourite hangout of Ernest Hemingway, and is now known as La Closerie des Lilas, in the Boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris.
Garden of Plants probably refers to Strindberg’s 1896 science book on botanical gardens, although this appears to be a small zoo.
Beeh drew Dead End in sanguine, presumably as a study for one of the twenty finished lithographs.
In the post-war years, Beeh suffered from depression, and is thought to have destroyed many of his own works. He also concentrated on the production of lithographs.
Man Leading a Little Girl is a lithograph from 1921.
Six Diners at Table is another lithograph from the same year.
I also have three undated works by Beeh.
He painted this Self-portrait of the Artist Wearing a Turban on cardboard.
Woman with a Child is one of a series of roughly worked figures drawn in black ink on wove paper.
This watercolour of a Man Sat in a Bar develops this well-known theme.
In January 1922, René Beeh caught seasonal influenza, and died in his native Strasbourg on 23 January, at the age of about 36. Despite his work receiving strongly favourable criticism, and forecasts of his future success, he was quickly forgotten. The first exhibition of his work in France after his death didn’t take place until 2008, over eighty years later. With large collections held by the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Strasbourg, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, New York, he should surely be much better-known.