born: 1884 Leipzig
died: 195o New York
After graduating from the Weimar Academy and making several trips abroad, Max Beckmann settled in Berün in 1907. While in Paris hewas impressed by Henri Rousseau and the "primitives," but he also admired artists of earlier epochs. His early work was influenced above all by Lovis Corinth and the German Impressionist painters. Gradually a key motif in Beckmann's art emerged: disaster, both individual and collective, a subject to which he devoted variation after variation. A key example is The Battle of 1907, a monumental canvas in which Beckmann's affnity with Corinth is very much in evidence. Profoundly shaken by his war experiences in 1915, Beckmann began to develop an expressive style which bore similarities to the razor-sharp objectivity of George Grosz or Otto Dix. From 1915 to 1933, the artist lived in Frankfurt am Main, where, from 1925, he taught at the Städelsche Kunstschule. His Landscape with Balloon (1917), probably representing a street in the Sachsenhausen district of Frankfurt, stil! shows stylistic reminiscences of Art Nouveau and Post-Impressionism. Matt, cool colors, the silently hovering balloon, and the solitary woman with an umbrella contribute to the eerily unreal atmosphere. Spring Landscape would seem almost naive, were it not for the stylization introduced by the sinuous lines of the leafless trees. The subject is Louisa Park in Sachsenhausen, not far from the apartment where Beckmann lived at the time. Over the following years, BIS HIER GELESEN he began to concentrate on depicting the depravity of the big city, which he looked upon as a "human landscape," a world in microcosm. Beckmann's style grew simpler, his drawing more relaxed, the colors stronger. In about 1924-1926 he began to surround the lightest hues with heavy black contours, which often stood in strange contradiction to the motifs themselves - carefree young girls, scenes in bars,-ballrooms, or the circus, (andscapes and portraits. An example from the period is his View of the Blue Sea, framed by a window (1928). In 1937 this painting was confiscated from the Wallraff Richartz- Museum, Cologne, during the Nazis' campaign to expunge what they termed "degenerate art." It returned to the city of Cologne in 1992, when the board oftrustees and supporters of the Wallraff Richartz and Ludwig museums were able to reacquire it for the Museum Ludwig collection. After being stripped of his teaching post in 1933, Beckmann began to concentrate on images of human beings alone and abandoned in an apocalyptic world, helplessly threatened by powers beyond their control. His palette grew more intense, and strong light-dark contrasts more frequent. A work from the beginning of this period is Self-portrait with a Black Cap, also known - without the artist's permission - as Gilles, after Antoine Watteau's pierrot figure of that name. The large-format canvas The Hurdy-Gurdy Man also dates to this period. The composition was based on a concept drawn from mythology, the eterna) cycle of birth and death. In 1937 Beckmann and his wife emigrated to Amsterdam, where theyremained until1947. Two Women (194o) depicts a slice of life on the big-city streets, the world of the demi-monde. The woman in the middle is decked out in the latest, grotesquely elegant fashion, but still nds for real life, while to her right appears, as if encaged, a vision unearthly beauty. Watching them both from the left is a man whose houette bears a likeness to the artist, which was probably intended. "Oh, what a senseless place the world is," wrote Beckmann in 1943. just a year later, in connection with Still Life with Three Glasses, he Id make the optimistic diary entry, "3o June 1944. Finished still life 'th three green glasses. It's good to be painting again."