A Night to Remember

Oh, they built the ship Titanic, to sail the ocean blue. For they thought it was a ship that water would never go through. It was on its maiden trip, that an iceberg hit the ship. It was sad when the great ship went down.
It was sad, so sad. It was sad, so sad. It was sad when the great ship went down (to the bottom of the….) Uncles and aunts, little children lost their pants. It was sad when the great ship went down.

The Sinking of the Titanic, by Max Beckmann, 1913

In expectation of the centennial of its sinking the Saint Louis Art Museum pulled from its vaults, “The Sinking of the Titanic”, by Max Beckmann. The following text is the museum’s placard description of the painting. A photo of Beckmann with the painting in his Munich studio shows the large size of this work.

On April 15, 1912, the world’s largest luxury liner, Titanic, sank off the coast of Newfoundland; of the 2,200 passengers, 1,507 died. Beckmann was inspired by news accounts to produce this enormous canvas in which he focused on the lifeboats of the Titanic while placing the distant, brightly lit liner against an iron-red night sky. Beckmann sought to emulate a 19th century French tradition of grand paintings of contemporary events. Here, his theme is the struggle for survival; boats list dangerously or have overturned. The largest lifeboat is crammed with woman and children including one passenger still in her violet evening gown and earrings. Beckmann employs a palette of vibrant green and blue coloring to highlight the nightmarish quality of a scene in which ghostly heads can be seen floating in the water.

The Artist and His Painting

Much ink and many pixels have been devoted to the story of HMS Titanic. It is a story better told by others than me. That is why I’ve included the lyrics to the old camp song about the sinking, a song that I sung while a scout. The Saint Louis Art Museum’s submission is a novel contribution and the following acapella cover offers tribute to James Cameron’s remarkable movie.

Other than the artifice of 3D, Cameron claims that the only thing he change in this re-release is the stars in the sky. An astronomer had complained after the original release that night’s sky was wrong. Cameron has endeavored to correct this mistake. If it were only so easy to change the stars and destinies of the people onboard that fateful night.

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