Max Beckmann

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Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann, photograph by Hans Moller,1922.jpg
Max Beckmann, photograph by Hans Möller, 1922
Born(1884-02-12)February 12, 1884
DiedDecember 27, 1950(1950-12-27) (aged 66)
Nationality German
Known for Painting
Sculpture
Drawing
Printmaking
Notable work
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery
Movement New Objectivity
German Expressionism

Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 – December 27, 1950) was a German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement. [1] In the 1920s, he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism that opposed its introverted emotionalism.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Drawing visual artwork in two-dimensional medium

Drawing is a form of visual art in which a person uses various drawing instruments to mark paper or another two-dimensional medium. Instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, various kinds of paints, inked brushes, colored pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, various kinds of erasers, markers, styluses, and various metals. Digital drawing is the act of using a computer to draw. Common methods of digital drawing include a stylus or finger on a touchscreen device, stylus- or finger-to-touchpad, or in some cases, a mouse. There are many digital art programs and devices.

Sculpture Branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions

Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving and modelling, in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since Modernism, there has been an almost complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded or cast.

Contents

Max Beckmann Self-portrait, drawing, 1918 Max beckmann, auutoritratto frontale con frontone di casa nello sfondo, 1918.jpg
Max Beckmann Self-portrait, drawing, 1918

Life

Max Beckmann 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 volunteered as a medical orderly, 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. [2]

Leipzig Place in Saxony, Germany

Leipzig is the most populous city in the German federal state of Saxony. With a population of 581,980 inhabitants as of 2017, it is Germany's tenth most populous city as well as the second most populous city in the area of former East Germany after (East) Berlin. Together with Halle (Saale), the largest city of the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt, the city forms the polycentric conurbation of Leipzig-Halle. Between the two cities lies Leipzig/Halle International Airport.

Province of Saxony province of Prussia

The Province of Saxony, also known as Prussian Saxony was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and later the Free State of Prussia from 1816 until 1945. Its capital was Magdeburg.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as, "the war to end all wars," it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

He is known for the self-portraits painted throughout his life, their number and intensity rivaled only by those of Rembrandt and Picasso. Well-read in philosophy and literature, Beckmann 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).

Mysticism Practice of religious experiences during alternate states of consciousness

Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.

Theosophy (Blavatskian) religion

Theosophy is an esoteric religious movement established in the United States during the late nineteenth century. It was founded largely by the Russian émigrée Helena Blavatsky and draws its beliefs predominantly from Blavatsky's writings. Categorised by scholars of religion as both a new religious movement and as part of the occultist current of Western esotericism, it draws upon both older European philosophies like Neoplatonism and Asian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

Max Beckmann Self-portrait with Horn, 1938-1940 Max Beckmann's 'Self-portrait with Horn', 1938-1940.jpg
Max Beckmann Self-portrait with Horn, 1938–1940

Beckmann enjoyed great success and official honors during the Weimar Republic. In 1925 he was selected to teach a master class at the Städelschule Academy of Fine Art in Frankfurt. Some of his most famous students included Theo Garve, Leo Maillet and Marie-Louise von Motesiczky. 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. [3] By the early 1930s, a series of major exhibitions, including large retrospectives at the Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim (1928) and in Basle and Zurich (1930), together with numerous publications, showed the high esteem in which Beckmann was held. [4]

Weimar Republic Germany state in the years 1918/1919–1933

The Weimar Republic, also known as 'Weimar Germany,' is an unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the republic remained Deutsches Reich unchanged from 1871, because of the German tradition of substates. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not have monarchical connotations in itself. The Reich was changed from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. In English, the country was usually known simply as Germany.

Städelschule art school

The Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, is a tertiary school of art in Frankfurt am Main, in central Germany. It accepts about 20 students each year from 500 applicants, and has a total of approximately 140 students of visual arts and 50 of architecture. About 75% of the students are not from Germany, and courses are taught in English.

Frankfurt Place in Hesse, Germany

Frankfurt is a metropolis and the largest city of the German federal state of Hesse, and its 746,878 (2017) inhabitants make it the fifth-largest city of Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. On the River Main, it forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring city of Offenbach am Main, and its urban area has a population of 2.3 million. The city is at the centre of the larger Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, which has a population of 5.5 million and is Germany's second-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr Region. Since the enlargement of the European Union in 2013, the geographic centre of the EU is about 40 km (25 mi) to the east of Frankfurt's central business district. Like France and Franconia, the city is named after the Franks. Frankfurt is the largest city in the Rhine Franconian dialect area.

His fortunes changed with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, whose dislike of Modern Art quickly led to its suppression by the state. In 1933, the Nazi government called Beckmann a "cultural Bolshevik" [5] and dismissed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt. [4] In 1937 the government confiscated more than 500 of his works from German museums, putting several on display in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich. [6] The day after Hitler's radio speech about degenerate art in 1937, Beckmann left Germany with his second wife, Quappi, for The Netherlands. [7]

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland on 1 September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Munich Capital and most populous city of Bavaria, Germany

Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, as well as the 12th-largest city in the European Union. The city's metropolitan region is home to 6 million people. Straddling the banks of the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps, it is the seat of the Bavarian administrative region of Upper Bavaria, while being the most densely populated municipality in Germany. Munich is the second-largest city in the Bavarian dialect area, after the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Max Beckmann, The Night (Die Nacht), 1918-1919, oil on canvas, 133 x 154 cm, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf Max Beckmann, 1918-19, The Night (Die Nacht), oil on canvas, 133 x 154 cm, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.jpg
Max Beckmann, The Night (Die Nacht) , 1918–1919, oil on canvas, 133 x 154 cm, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

For ten years, Beckmann lived in self-imposed exile in Amsterdam, [4] failing in his desperate attempts to obtain a visa for the United States. In 1944 the Germans attempted to draft him into the army, although the sixty-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. They included several large triptychs, which stand as a summation of Beckmann's art.

Amsterdam Capital city of the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands, with a population of 866,737, 1,380,872 in the urban area, and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. Amsterdam is in the province of North Holland.

Triptych three-part polyptych

A triptych is a work of art that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works. The middle panel is typically the largest and it is flanked by two smaller related works, although there are triptychs of equal-sized panels. The form can also be used for pendant jewelry.

In 1948, Beckmann moved to the United States [8] . 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 came to St. Louis at the invitation of Perry T. Rathbone, who was director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. [9] Rathbone arranged for Washington University in St. Louis to hire Beckmann as an art teacher, filling a vacancy left by Philip Guston, who had taken a leave. The first Beckmann retrospective in the United States took place in 1948 at the City Art Museum, Saint Louis. [10] In St. Louis, Morton D. May became his patron and, already an avid amateur photographer and painter, a student of the artist. May later donated much of his large collection of Beckmann's works to the St. Louis Art Museum. Beckmann also helped him learn to appreciate Oceanian and African art. [11] After stops in Denver and Chicago, he and Quappi took an apartment at 38 West 69th Street in Manhattan. [7] In 1949 he obtained a professorship at the Art School of New York's Brooklyn Museum. [4]

He suffered from angina pectoris and died after Christmas 1950, struck down by a heart attack at the corner of 69th Street and Central Park West in New York, not far from his apartment building. [12] As the artist’s widow recalled, he was on his way to see one of his paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. [13] Beckmann had a one-man show at the Venice Biennale of 1950, the year of his death. [4]

Themes


Unlike several of his avant-garde contemporaries, Beckmann rejected non-representational painting; instead, he took up and advanced the tradition of figurative painting. He greatly admired not only Cézanne and Van Gogh, but also Blake, Rembrandt, and Rubens, as well as Northern European artists of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, such as Bosch, Bruegel, and Matthias Grünewald. His style and method of composition are partially rooted in the imagery of medieval stained glass.

Engaging with the genres of portraiture, landscape, still life, and history painting, his diverse body of work created a very personal but authentic version of modernism, one with a healthy deference to traditional forms. Beckmann reinvented the religious triptych and expanded this archetype of medieval painting into an allegory of contemporary humanity.

From his beginnings in the fin de siècle to the period after World War II, Beckmann reflected an era of radical changes in both art and history in his work. Many of Beckmann‘s paintings express the agonies of Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Some of his imagery refers to the decadent glamor of the Weimar Republic's cabaret culture, but from the 1930s on, his works often contain mythologized 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. [14]

His Self-Portrait with Horn (1938), painted during his exile in Amsterdam, demonstrates his use of symbols. Musical instruments are featured in many of his paintings; in this case, a horn that the artist holds as if it were a telescope by which he intends to explore the darkness surrounding him. The tight framing of the figure within the boundaries of the canvas emphasize his entrapment. Art historian Cornelia Stabenow terms the painting "the most melancholy, but also the most mystifying, of his self-portraits". [15]

Legacy

Many of Beckmann's late paintings are displayed in American museums. He exerted a profound influence on such American painters as Philip Guston and Nathan Oliveira. [16] His 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 much of the United States for decades. His 1984 centenary was marked in the New York area only by a modest exhibit at Nassau County's suburban art museum. The Saint Louis Art Museum holds the largest public collection of Beckmann paintings in the world and held a major exhibition of his work in 1998.

Since the late 20th century, 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), Munich (2000), Frankfurt (2006) and Amsterdam (2007). In Spain and Italy, Beckmann's work has been accessible to a wider public for the first time. A large-scale Beckmann retrospective was exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2002) [17] and Tate Modern in London (2003). [18] In 2011, the Städel in Frankfurt devoted an entire room to the artist in its newly fitted permanent exhibition of modern art. [19]

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 the United States by University of Chicago Press in 1996. [20]

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

In 2015, the Saint Louis Art Museum published Max Beckmann at the Saint Louis Art Museum: The Paintings, by Lynette Roth. It is a comprehensive look at the Beckmann paintings at SLAM, the largest collection of them in the world, and places both artist and works in a broader context.

Art market

Although Beckmann is considered one of the towering figures of 20th-century art, he has never been a household name, and his works have mostly appealed to a niche market of German and Austrian collectors. In 1921 Beckmann signed an exclusive contract with the print-dealer J. B. Neumann in Berlin. [4] In 1938 he had the first of numerous exhibitions at Curt Valentin’s Buchholz Gallery, New York. [10] Today, his large paintings routinely sell for more than $1 million, and his self-portraits generally command the highest prices. In 2001, Ronald Lauder paid $22.5 million, a record for the artist, at Sotheby's New York for Beckmann’s Self-Portrait with Horn (1938), and displayed it at the Neue Galerie in New York.

Rediscovered works

Several important works by Beckmann were discovered in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt in 2012, and are the subject of intense scrutiny by the German police and art historians for their provenance and sale during the Nazi period.

See also

Notes

  1. Max Beckmann Archived January 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Schulz-Hoffmann and Weiss 1984, p. 69.
  3. Rainbird 2003, p. 272.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Max Beckmann Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  5. "Beckmann". Spaightwood galleries. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  6. Rainbird 2003, p. 274.
  7. 1 2 Michael Kimmelman (June 27, 2003), "Chuckling Darkly at Disaster", New York Times .
  8. metmuseum.org
  9. Stephen Kinzer (August 12, 2003), "As Max Beckmann Gets a New York Spotlight, St. Louis Shares in the Glow", New York Times .
  10. 1 2 Max Beckmann Guggenheim Collection.
  11. Robert McDonald (February 7, 1987), Art Review: "German Masterpieces Dazzle At San Diego Museum Of Art", Los Angeles Times .
  12. "Max Beckman, 66, Noted Artist, Dies". December 28, 1950. New York Times. "Max Beckmann ... died yesterday of a heart attack near his home, 38 West Sixty-ninth Street."
  13. Rainbird 2003, p. 283.
  14. Schulz-Hoffmann and Weiss 1984, pp. 270–272.
  15. Schulz-Hoffmann and Weiss 1984, p. 272.
  16. Schulz-Hoffmann and Weiss 1984, pp. 161–162.
  17. "Centre Pompidou - Art culture musée expositions cinémas conférences débats spectacles concerts". Centrepompidou.fr. 2000-09-14. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  18. Archived August 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  19. Catherine Hickley (December 9, 2011), Review: "Vampires, Ghosts Haunted Max Beckmann During U.S. Exile", Bloomberg .
  20. Archived February 11, 2005, at the Wayback Machine

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References