This painting is catalogued in the Felix Nussbaum Foundation's online Werkverzeichnis as number 208.
Felix Nussbaum was born in Osnabrück in 1904 to a wealthy German-Jewish merchant family. He studied art in Hamburg and Berlin where he met his partner, the artist Felka Platek, in 1924. Until the rise to power of the Nazi regime, Nussbaum and Platek led a rather bohemian existence in Berlin, Rome and Paris. All this was to change in December 1932 when, while staying in Rome, his Berlin studio was set on fire and many of his paintings were destroyed. From Italy he and Platek fled to Belgium on a tourist visa in February 1935, settling first in Ostend - hometown of James Ensor, for whom Nussbaum felt admiration - and then later in Brussels.
Nussbaum's art from this period in Belgium, to which the present work belongs, reflects his increasing anxiety of exile. Komisches Konzert II is an oil version of a gouache of the same title today housed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Describing this work, Emily D. Bilski has written: 'One of the first works from the Belgian period, [Komisches Konzert] is a reworking of motifs from the 1933 drawing Destruction. The drawing represents Nussbaum's fear at the moment catastrophe struck, whereas the 1935 gouache offers an update on the situation as he and Felka tried to rebuild their lives in Belgium' (see exh. cat. Art and Exile: Felix Nussbaum, 1904-1944, New York, 1985, p. 38).
Nussbaum's body of work, which only exists because he managed to secrete his paintings with friends, remains one of the most potent documents of this dark period. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s we are confronted with a visual record of an artist in exile, who gradually becomes resigned to the idea of mortality and impending doom. In 1940 when the German army entered Belgium, Nussbaum was arrested as a Hostile Alien and was interned in St. Cyprien. He managed to escape and was registered with The Jews Register in Brussels on 20 December 1940. With the assistance of friends, Nussbaum and Platek hid in Brussels but were caught in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz on July 31st.