Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Kreuzabnahme, 1917 Ol auf Leinwand, 151 x 129 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Photo: © 2011. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Woman with Mandolin in Yellow and Red, 1950, Oil on canvas, 91,9 x 140,2 cm, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Pinakothek der Moderne, München, Photo: © bpk | Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Departure, 1932/1933-1935, Oil on canvas, central panel: 215,3 x 115,2 cm, left and right, panel: jeweils 215,3 x 99,7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Photo: © 2011. Digital Image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bon 2011.

Max Beckmann in the U.S.A., in St. Louis, and in New York

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), San Francisco, 1950, Oil on Canvas, 102 x 140 cm, Hessisches, andesmuseum Darmstadt, Photo: Foto: Wolfgang Fuhrmannek, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Cabins, 1948, Oil on canvas, 140,5 x 190,5 cm, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Photo: Walter Klein, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Morning on the Mississippi,1949, Oil on Canvas, 164,5 x 190,5 cm, Private Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Backstage, 1950, Oil on canvas, 101 x 127 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Max Beckmann, Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York, 1950, Photo: Paul Weller, © Max Beckmann Archiv,

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Max Beckmann, at MoMA 1947, in front of his work, Departure, 1932/33-35, Max Beckmann Archiv, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Rodeo, 1949, Pen and black ink on paper drawing, 60,3 x 43,5 cm, Private Collection, New York, Photo: Schecter Lee, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Falling Man, 1950, Oil on canvas, 141 x 88,8 cm, Washington, National Gallery, Photo: Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011,




Städel Museum
Holbeinstraße 1
+ 49(0)69-605098-224
Exhibition House
Beckmann & America
October 7, 2011-January 8, 2012

The last loans have been secured, technical and logistic preparations are in full swing: Frankfurt’s Städel Museum presents Max Beckmann’s (1884-1950) condensed late work against the background of the last years of his life and his artistic production in the USA. With more than 110 exhibits, including 50 paintings as well as numerous drawings, watercolors, printed graphic works, and sculptures, the show Beckmann & America offers a comprehensive survey of this important artist’s fascinating last creative period. After living and teaching in St. Louis from 1947 on, Beckmann finally moved to New York where he also accepted a teaching position and where he died walking through the city in 1950. From the point of view of the artist’s evolution, these years on American soil were decisive: marking a new beginning for and a further development in his work, they will be the subject of a monographic exhibition for the first time. For Frankfurt am Main, where Beckmann lived, worked, and taught at the Städel School from 1915 to 1933, this project is of special importance: the Städel Museum boasts a rich collection of paintings, drawings, printed graphic works, and sculptures by the artist and has presented a series of exhibitions on specific aspects and periods of his oeuvre. A comprehensive exhibition dedicated to Beckmann was shown as early as 1947. Subsequent shows included, among others, exhibitions focusing on his triptychs (1981), his early paintings (1983), his Frankfurt years (1984), a retrospective (1990/91), as well as presentations of his printed graphic work (2001 and 2006). The exhibition highlighting the artist’s American years thus concludes the sequence of shows exploring the individual stages of Beckmann’s career.

The exhibition is realized on the initiative of the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain as part of the project The Phenomenon of Expressionism, whose final phase it ushers in. Since August 2009, more than 20 cultural institutions in the Rhein Main region have centered their activities on this early-20th-century epoch characterized by a new start and a spirit of innovation in substantial monographic presentations, retrospectives, exhibitions, concerts, film and theater projects, as well as a symposium. The Phenomenon of Expressionism is the first cooperative project of the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain. The Städel’s elaborate exhibition venture is being carried out with the help of BNY Mellon as Corporate Sponsor.

Taken up several years ago, the loan negotiations for the large-scale exhibition project have been concluded in the meantime; crucial loans such as the triptychs Departure from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Beginning from the Metropolitan Museum New York, or The Argonauts from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. could be secured for the show. The anything but easy transport of these extremely valuable large-format works — the triptych Departure from the MoMA alone measures 2.15 x 3.15 m — poses a veritable logistic challenge. The Descent from the Cross (1917) will also return to the city on the Main for the exhibition. This was the first of Beckmann’s paintings to enter the collection of the Städtische Galerie at the Städel, having been purchased by former Städel director Georg Swarzenski directly from the artist’s studio in 1919. It was confiscated by the Nazis in 1937 and presented in the exhibition Degenerate Art. Today, it is part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Max Beckmann lived and taught in the United States from the late summer of 1947 on. It was only after his ten-year exile in Amsterdam that the artist was able to realize his long-cherished plan to emigrate to the United States in 1947. He spent the last and extremely productive years of his life far from Europe. The new continent held numerous encounters with other people, journeys, and impressions in store for the painter. St. Louis, Missouri became his first home in America; he stayed for two years and held a guest professorship at the city’s Washington University. In the fall of 1949, he moved to New York, where he taught at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Frequent shorter and longer journeys took him to the Midwest, to Chicago, to New Orleans, to Boulder, Colorado, but also to California and the West Coast, for example. The spatial expanses of the foreign continent — its coasts and the atmosphere of its “wild” landscapes, as well as the cosmos of its metropolises — were a new physical experience for Beckmann which became a perceivable source of inspiration for his art. In the midst of his new life, Max Beckmann suffered a heart attack and died on a street corner near New York City’s Central Park.

With three thematically independent exhibitions —Beckmann & America in the Städel Museum, Max Beckmann. Face to Face in the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig (September 17, 2011-January 22, 2012), and Max Beckmann. The Landscapes in Kunstmuseum Basel (September 4, 2011-January 22, 2012) — this autumn art season offers the unique opportunity to explore Max Beckmann’s manifold oeuvre in a profound manner.

Curator of the exhibition is Dr. Jutta Schütt (Städel Museum).

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Max Beckmann Saint Louis, Missouri, 1948, Photo: J. Raymond, © Max Beckmann Archiv.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Self-Portrait with Cigarette, 1947, Oil on Canvas, 63,5 x 45,5 cm, Dortmund, Museum Ostwall im Dortmunder, Photo: Jürgen Spiler, Dortmund, © VG Bild-Kunst, 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), The Liberated One, 1937, Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 cm, Schloßmuseum Murnau, on permanent loan by private collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Max Beckmann in Central Park New York, 1950, © Max Beckmann Archiv.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Max Beckmann, 1948, Photo: Walter Barker, © Max Beckmann Archiv.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Portrait of Walter Barker, 1948, Oil on canvas, 114 x 63,5 cm, The Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Gift of, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm K. Whyte, Photo: Efraim Lev-er, © VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), The Beginning, 1946-49, Oil on canvas, central panel: 175 x 150 cm; left and right panel: 165 x 85 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Photo: © bpk | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), The Argonauts, 1949-50, Oil on canvas, Left and right panel 184,1 x 85,1 cm, central, panel 205,8 x 122 cmm Photo: Copyright 2011: Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washingtonm © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.

Max Beckmann, Birth, Private Collection.

Max Beckmann, Philosopher, Painter, Writer, and Exile in Amsterdam

Max Beckmann, Carnival (Triptych), 1942-43, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City.

Max Beckmann, Dream of Monte Carlo (1939), 1940-43, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait with Horn, 1938, Oil on canvas, 43-1/4 x 39-3/4", Collection Dr. and Mrs. Stephan Lackner, Santa Barbara, California.

Max Beckmann, Resting Woman with Carnations, 1040-42, Sprengel Museum, Hanover.

Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait in Black, 1944, Pinakothek der Moderne, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006.


Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Straße 40
+ 49 (0)89 23805 360
Max Beckmann, Exile in Amsterdam, 1937-1947
September 13, 2007-January 6, 2008

Max Beckmann (1884-1950) is widely regarded as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. In his use of colour, spatial composition and levels of symbolism Beckmann exerted a major influence on modern art in Germany and beyond. Beckmann himself drew inspiration from the work of the Flemish Primitives and Vincent van Gogh, among others. Above all, it was his daring use of colour that ranked Beckmann alongside Matisse and Picasso as one of the most sensational artists of the first half of the twentieth century. Beckmann succeeded in expressing the mysteries of life like no other painter. He created his own entire lexicon of images, with which he communicated his dreams and fears by means of a highly personal symbolism. The question of the meaning of existence is a dominant presence in his work. Beckmann came to the conclusion that man is not free, but is shackled by earthly chains. He looked on life as a play or a masquerade, in which each person plays their own role.

In 1937 Max Beckmann fled the Nazi terror in Germany to settle in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he was to live for the next ten years. The immediate cause for his flight was the speech Hitler held at the opening of the Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German art), just one day before the opening of the Degenerate Art show on 19 July 1937. This speech, in which Hitler clearly threatened modern artists, was broadcast on the radio. Beckmann heard it and immediately packed his bags. Beckmann painted over a third of his entire oeuvre while in the Netherlands. This period may thus justifiably be identified as his most productive. It was here that he produced five of his nine monumental triptychs. These spectacular works of art, comprising a central panel with flanking wings, rank among the icons of modern art. In 1947 Beckmann was given a visa for the United States, where he died after just three years.

The exhibition shows masterpieces from this Amsterdam period, including the three impressive triptychs Carnival, The Actors and Perseus. His paintings bear witness to his interest in the world of the cabaret, Dutch landscape and life in Amsterdam. Through his diary, letters, photographs and an impression of his studio, the visitor to the exhibition is given an insight to the life Beckmann lived in Amsterdam.

Max Beckmann in Amsterdam 1937-1947 is organised in conjunction with the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. The exhibition will be on show in Munich from 13 September, 2007 through 16 January 2008.

Beckmann is usually classified as an Expressionist artist, though he rejected both the term and the movement. In the 1920s he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism that opposed its introverted emotionalism.

He was born into a middle class family in Leipzig, Saxony. From his youth he pitted himself against the old masters. His traumatic experiences of World War I, in which he served as a medic, coincided with a dramatic transformation of his style from academically correct depictions to a distortion of both figure and space, reflecting his altered vision of himself and humanity.

He is exceptional for the self-portraits he painted throughout his life, their number and intensity rivalled only by Rembrandt and Picasso. Well-read in philosophy and literature, he also contemplated mysticism and theosophy in search of the "Self". As a true painter-thinker, he strove to find the hidden spiritual dimension in his subjects. (Beckmann's 1948 Letters to a Woman Painter provides a statement of his approach to art.)

In the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, Beckmann enjoyed great success and official honors. In 1927 he received the Honorary Empire Prize for German Art and the Gold Medal of the City of Düsseldorf; the National Gallery in Berlin acquired his painting The Bark and, in 1928, purchased his Self-Portrait in Tuxedo. In 1925 he was selected to teach a master class at the Städel school of art in Frankfurt. Some of his most famous students included Theo Garve, Leo Maillet and Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky.

His fortunes changed with the rise to power of Hitler, whose dislike of Modern Art quickly led to its suppression by the state. In 1933, the Nazi government bizarrely called Beckmann a "cultural Bolshevik" and dismissed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt. In 1937 more than 500 of his works were confiscated from German museums, and several of these works were put on display in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition. For 10 years, Beckmann lived in poverty in self-imposed exile in Amsterdam, failing in his desperate attempts to obtain a visa for the US. In 1944 the Germans attempted to draft him into the army, despite the fact that the 60-year-old artist had suffered a heart attack. The works completed in his Amsterdam studio were even more powerful and intense than the ones of his master years in Frankfurt, and included several large triptychs, which stand as a summation of Beckmann's art.

After the war, Beckmann moved to America, and during the last three years of his life, he taught at the art schools of Washington University in St. Louis (with the German-American painter and printmaker Werner Drewes) and the Brooklyn Museum. He suffered from angina pectoris and died after Christmas 1950, struck down by a heart attack on 61st Street/Central Park West in Manhattan.

His late works mirror the landscapes, skyscrapers and the populace of mid-century America. Many of the paintings are now displayed in American museums. Max Beckmann, a native of the very heart of Germany, exerted a profound influence on such American painters as Philip Guston and Nathan Oliveira.

From its beginnings in the fin de siècle up to its completion after World War II, Beckmann's work reflects an era of radical changes in both art and history. Many of Max Beckmann‘s paintings express the agonies of Europe in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Some of his imagery refers to the decadent glamour of the Weimar Republic's cabaret culture, but from the 1930s on, his works often contain mythologised references to the brutalities of the Nazis. Beyond these immediate concerns, his subjects and symbols assume a larger meaning, voicing universal themes of terror, redemption, and the mysteries of eternity and fate.

Unlike several of his avant-garde contemporaries, Beckmann rejected non-representational painting. He took up and advanced the tradition of figurative painting, following its technical and spiritual masters, above all Cezanne, but also Van Gogh, Blake, Rembrandt, Rubens and the Magic Realists of the late Middle Ages, such as Bosch, Brueghel and Matthias Grünewald. Encompassing portraiture, landscape, still life, mythology and the fantastic, his work created a very personal but authentic version of modernism, combining this with traditional plasticity. Beckmann reinvented the triptych and expanded this archetype of medieval painting into a looking glass of contemporary humanity.

New York art dealer Richard L Feigen described him as “the greatest artist of the 20th Century in Germany — if not in the world.”

Beckmann's posthumous reputation perhaps suffered from his very individual artistic path; like Oskar Kokoschka, he defies the convenient categorization that provides themes for critics, art historians and curators. Other than a major retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1964-65 (with an excellent catalogue by Peter Selz), and MoMA's prominent display of the triptych Departure, his work was little seen in America for decades. His 1984 centenary was marked in the New York area only by a modest exhibit at Nassau County's suburban art museum. But in recent years, Max Beckmann's work has gained an increasing international reputation. There have been retrospectives and exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (1995) and the Guggenheim Museum (1996) in New York, and the principal museums of Rome (1996), Valencia (1996), Madrid (1997), Zurich (1998), St Louis (1998/1999), Munich (2000) and Frankfurt (2006). In Spain and Italy, Beckmann's work has been accessible to a wider public for the first time. In 2001, a large-scale Beckmann retrospective took place at Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Tate Modern in London.

In 1996, Piper, Beckmann's German publisher, released the third and last volume of the artist’s letters, whose wit and vision rank him among the strongest writers of the German tongue. His essays, plays and, above all, his diaries are also unique historical documents. A selection of Beckmann's writings was issued in America in 1996.

In 2003, Stephan Reimertz, Parisian novelist and art historian, published the biography of Max Beckmann. It presents many photos and sources for the first time. The biography reveals Beckmann's contemplations on writers and philosophers such as Dostoyevsky, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Richard Wagner. The book has not yet been translated into English.


Max Beckmann, Death, 1938, Staatliche Museen, Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

Max Beckmann, Crouching Woman, 1935.

Max Beckmann, Female Dancer, 1935.

Max Beckmann's Bronzes as a Continuation of His Pictorial Figuration

Max Beckmann, Man in the Dark, 1934.

Max Beckmann, Adam and Eve, 1936.


Städel Museum
Städelsches Kunstinstitut
und Städtische Galerie
Dürerstrasse 2
+ 069-605098-200
Max Beckmann: Eight Bronzes
April 17-September 21, 2008

What Max Beckmann (1884-1950) achieved as a painter has been on view in the Städel Museum ever since he was a professor at the Städelschule in the 1920s. The paintings went directly from his studio into the museum, until the National Socialist confiscation of 1937 broke up the original ensemble. In the postwar years, this gap was partially filled by extensive collecting activities and generous donations. The spectrum of his work in the Städel ranges from his first self-portrait of 1905, which is still in an Impressionist style, to Backstage, the painting that was still standing wet on the easel when Beckmann died of a heart attack in New York in 1950. Recently, a significant bronze sculpture was purchased for the collection with funds from the estate of Werner Wirthle: Female Dancer, specifically, the copy that Beckmann’s widow had on her desk in New York. This 17.5 x 70 x 25 cm sculpture, produced around 1935, during a period of political coercion, reflects Beckmann’s aesthetic rebelliousness as well as his melancholy interpretation of the great theatrum mundi and his love of variety theater. This purchase is now the occasion for the first exhibition in Germany to include all eight sculptures that Beckmann produced in his artistic career.

Beckmann added the genre of sculpture to his oeuvre only late, when he was already fifty. In the mid-1930s he produced five sculptures in Berlin, which are distinguished by their powerful, compact physical form; after an interval of fourteen years, the artist modeled three other, more filigreed sculptures in New York in 1950. Sculpture is thus a medium with which Beckmann grappled in a supplementary way and only briefly. For that reason, three paintings by Beckmann from the same period that take up the pictorial ideas of the sculptures provide background in terms of form and content. For example, the painting The Quay Wall reflects the artist’s isolation in 1936, whereas In the Circus Wagon, painted while in exile in Amsterdam, testifies to Beckmann’s love of variety theater with its artistes and acrobats. Finally, the third point of reference is his final work: Backstage.

Unlike Lehmbruck, Kolbe, and Barlach, Beckmann did not develop his sculptures out of the sculptural tradition. Having achieved maturity of form, he was not primarily concerned with problems of style but rather with emblematic authenticity. They center on the expressive gesture of the sculpture and the message communicated in it. Apparently, in that suddenly darkening era, he felt the need to express the social constraints that deeply shook him as a human being and as an artist in comprehensible symbols, in actual figures whose three-dimensionality gave them a different degree of reality than that of human likenesses on canvas.

The first five sculptures were produced in Berlin between 1934 and 1936, shortly after Beckmann lost his teaching position at the Städel-Kunstgewerbeschule as a result of the National Socialist seizure of power. The first two to be completed, Man in the Dark (1934) and Female Dancer (1935), were cast, probably two copies of each, but none of the other sculptures were executed during Beckmann’s lifetime. Crouching Woman (1935), Adam and Eve (1936), and finally Self-Portrait (1936) were produced in rapid sequence. Whereas the figure in Man in the Dark — whose hands and feet, in contrast to his head and body, are monumental in form — seems to embody the apparent lack of orientation in a time of political duress, with Female Dancer he uses the world of the variety theater as a symbol for human existence. Yet the artistic focus is not on the person but on the extreme posture of the splits, at once elegant and erotic. In Adam and Eve, Beckmann reinvented a work with a long iconographic tradition. He reveals the process of creation: gripped by the snake, Adam is enthroned like an idol holding a tiny figure of Eve in his open hand at precisely the place where Genesis indicates that God the Father took a rib from Adam to form Eve.

In 1937 Beckmann took all his sculptures with him into exile in Amsterdam. They also accompanied him when he immigrated to the United States in 1947. The last three sculptures — Snake Charmer, Back Bend, and Head of a Man — were produced in 1950 in Beckmann’s new homeland. Fleeing from the terrible political upheavals in Europe, Beckmann settled first in Saint Louis, where he taught, and later in New York. Following his death, Beckmann’s widow, Mathilde, known as Quappi, had the plaster models cast in bronze. The sculptures were exhibited for the first time at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York in 1959.

This exhibition of all eight sculptures is intended to shed light on the comparatively small but significant group of works in this genre by an artist who is uncommonly important for the Städel Museum and to relate them to his paintings.

Max Beckmann, Snake Charmer, 1950.

Max Beckmann, Back Bend, 1950.