Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann

Max Carl Friedrich Beckmann (*February 12, 1884 in Leipzig; †December 27, 1950 in New York City) is one of the most important German artists of the modern era and is considered a masterful interpreter of the world of his time. His main interest was people.

Beckmann began painting self-portraits while still at school, a tradition that remained a constant, unrelenting form of self-interrogation until his death.

At the age of sixteen, he began to study painting at the Großherzogliche Kunstschule in Weimar and graduated with several awards.

He married the painter Minna Tube in 1906.

After spending time in Paris, Geneva, and Florence, he settled in Berlin in 1907, where he joined the Berlin Secession. When almost thirty artists were rejected by the jury of the Berlin Secession in 1930, Max Beckmann joined the Neue Secession artists’ group in protest. Led by Max Liebermann, other members of the Neue Secession included Erich Heckel, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Franz Marc, Otto Mueller, Gabriele Münter, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, and Marianne von Werefkin.

 During the First World War, Beckmann worked as a volunteer medical assistant. In July 1915, however, he suffered a mental and physical breakdown and was released from military service. He moved to Frankfurt am Main. His experiences during the First World War had a lasting impact on his work.

From then on, his principal theme was lonely, threatened and helpless people in an apocalyptic world full of violence. The new content of his paintings was paralleled by a new aesthetic and formal language. Beckmann reduced his use of color. Dull brown, gray, and yellow dominated the canvas. Faces and bodies appeared haggard and worn. His bodies were more angular and extremely long. This was accompanied by a preference for canvases in narrow portrait formats, which corresponded to the overly long bodies and restricted them to confined surroundings.

From 1915 to 1933 he taught at the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule in Frankfurt am Main, now the Städelschule, where he was appointed as a professor in 1929. His paintings became more colorful again in the 1920s. The zeitgeist of the Neue Sachlichkeit was evident in the reduced subjects of his paintings. Beckmann became increasingly interested in mythological content during this period. He divorced his wife after meeting Mathilde von Kaulbach, and the two went on to marry in 1925. He made his new wife one of the most painted and drawn women in the history of art. His fame in Germany reached its peak in 1928 when he was awarded the Reichsehrenpreis Deutscher Kunst (Honorary Empire Prize for German Art) and one of the first comprehensive retrospectives of Beckmann’s work was held at the Kunsthalle Mannheim.

Even before Hitler’s seizure of power in April 1933, Beckmann had already been dismissed from his professorship at the Städelschule. He left Frankfurt in the same year and moved back to Berlin. In 1937, Beckmann’s oeuvre was declared “degenerate.” A number of his works were displayed in the exhibitions of degenerate art that were shown throughout Germany. He emigrated to Amsterdam with his wife that same year. His work in exile is characterized by deeply enigmatic paintings, self-portraits, and some heavily symbolic triptychs with mythological themes.

Although the couple had been applying for a U.S. visa since 1939, they did not receive one until 1947. At the end of September of the same year, the artist began teaching at the College of Art of Washington University in St. Louis. In May 1948 the Saint Louis Art Museum held a major retrospective of Beckmann’s work. At the end of 1949 Max Beckmann accepted a professorship at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York.

Washington University in St. Louis awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1950. By this time, he was already finding it difficult to assert his art against the now popular abstract painting of the postwar period. At the age of sixty-six, Max Beckmann died of a heart attack on December 27, 1950. His tenth triptych, Amazonen (Amazons), remained unfinished. Beckmann’s triptychs are among his most important works of the twentieth century. In addition to his paintings, Max Beckmann also created an extensive oeuvre of printed works.

Sources:
• Lebendiges Museum Online: https://www.dhm.de/lemo/biografie/max-beckmann (last accessed: 30/10/2020)
• Elger, Dietmar (1991) EXPRESSIONISMUS, Cologne: Taschen Verlag GmbH

1884 — Born on February 12th in Leipzig.
1900 — Studies at the Großherzoglichen Kunstschule in Weimar.
1903 — Leaves the academy.
1906 — Villa Romana scholarship. Moves to Berlin. First exhibition at “Berliner Secession”. Marries Minna Tube.
1913 — Discharge from the „Berliner Secession“. Founding member of the „Freie Secession“, Berlin.
1914 — Military service.
1915 — Nervous breakdown.
1917 — Discharge from military service.
1919 — Founding member of the „Darmstädter Sezession“.
1929 — Professor in Frankfurt.
1925 — Divorce from Minna Beckmann-Tube. Marries Mathilde von Kaulbach.
1929 — Appointed Professor to Frankfurter Städelschule.
1933 — His works are confiscated by the Nazi regime. Moves to Berlin
1937 — Emigration to Amsterdam.
1947 — Moves to USA.
1949 — Professor at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York.
1950 — Honorary doctorate of the Washington University, Saint Louis.

Dies on 27. December in New York.

 

© Copyright Galerie Utermann 2020

© Copyright Galerie Utermann 2020

© Copyright Galerie Utermann 2020

Galerie Utermann, Silberstraße 22, 44137 Dortmund

Galerie Utermann, Silberstraße 22, 44137 Dortmund

Galerie Utermann, Silberstraße 22, 44137 Dortmund