Two brothers die at the front

Behind the darkness of the cubist period there is probably the delayed mental choc recollecting the war trenches (Beer said so himself). Several friends died in the war, such as the Swedish volunteer artist Ivan Lönnberg in 1918, and Dick’s two brothers Allan and Edward on the British side (the latter, also a gifted painter, was probably shot after an attempted soldier rebellion). Dark colours reflecting dark moods. But dark does not mean gloomy. The oil canvas “In the paddock”, the cubist masterpiece from 1918, contains strong and warm colours, contrasted and aggressive even if the background stays chromatically obscure and cold. That’s his strength, Dick Beer is a colourist even in mourning shades.

In 1918 though, he marries Ruth Öhrling, one of the first Swedish women to graduate as a dentist. She was a committed student who served as guide to Lenin when the revolutionary visited Sweden on his way to Russia. Dick Beer achieves some affective stability through this marriage, but the couple has conflicts and lives separated for long periods, she working in Stockholm (and collecting art objects), he travelling or painting in Paris. It must have been difficult to be married to a figure so tortured and irreverent as was the painter. Once when the couple dined in a trendy Stockholm restaurant, Dick who was a confessed republican rose from his table to admonish Prince Eugen of the royal family with the reproach that the latter was getting served before the other guests. The prince who was himself a gentleman painter (an excellent one) and of liberal beliefs was reported to be very annoyed…