Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann

pseudonym: -

birth data

date of birth: 1884

place of birth: Leipzig

death data

date of death: 1950

death: New York


Max Beckmann was born on 12 February 1884 in Leipzig. In 1900 he began studying at the Großherzogliche Kunstschule (Grand-Ducal Art School) in Weimar before transferring to the Académie Colarossi in Paris in 1903. From 1904 onwards Max Beckmann lived in Berlin and joined the Berlin Secession in 1907. In 1914 - still a strong advocate of German Impressionism - he became one of the founding members of the Free Secession. Beckmann volunteered for service as a medical orderly on the front in World War I - a time that was to mark a break in his concept of art. As a result of his wartime experience, a clearly visible move towards an expressive pictorial language appears after 1916 that is as critical of the time as it is symbolic. Biblical motifs, coffee-house scenes, circus themes and self-portraits reflect Beckmanns shift away from contemporary life in the metropolis. In addition to oil paintings, the artist produced a total of more than 370 graphic sheets, created in the main between 1915 and 1924. Beckmanns early success as a painter opened up contacts to prominent publishers such as Israel Ber Neumann in Berlin and Reinhard Piper in Munich who brought out his graphic series and portfolios. In his early graphic works Beckmann still concentrated on the lithography technique. However, he soon began experimenting with the drypoint technique which, as with drawing, enabled him to apply staccato-like lines, dense hatching and deft strokes spontaneously. To begin with, the artist created several preparatory sketches that he then transferred freehand onto plates using a hard-pointed needle. The proofs, printed by Beckmann on his own press, are rare today and document the artistic creative process through to the final version of the print-run. Even more seldom are his woodcuts - a total of merely 19 exist in his graphic ouvre as a whole. In the 1920s Max Beckmann was at the height of his artistic success. Numerous exhibitions were held in the major cities of Europe. Influential art dealers, including Paul Cassirer, Günther Franke and Peter Zingler represented the artist. The first important Beckmann monograph, edited by Curt Glaser, was published in 1924 and the first major retrospective of his work was held at the Kunsthalle Mannheim already in 1928. Beckmanns career was abruptly interrupted by the National Socialists seizure of power in 1933. He had to vacate his teaching post at the Städelschule in Frankfurt where he had been living since 1915 and the room dedicated exclusively to his work at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, housed in the Kronprinzenpalais, was disbanded. Beckmann was defamed as a degenerate artist. In 1937 he finally fled and lived in exile in Amsterdam; in 1938/39 he had a further residence in Paris. Through friends and gallery owners such as Curt Valentin and I.B. Neumann, who had already emigrated to the USA, Beckmann managed to exhibit successfully in a number of cities in America. Thanks to their efforts, he was offered several teaching posts, including a professorship at Washington University Art School in St. Louis in 1947 and the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York in 1949. He was not, however, ever granted a permanent visa. Max Beckmann died unexpectedly on 27 December 1950 in New York after returning from a walk.