Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 - December 27, 1950) was a German painter, lithographer and woodcut artist.

Beckmann was born in Leipzig into a farming family, who gave up their farm and moved to Leipzig after his birth. Beckmann drew from a young age, and in 1900 entered the Weimar Academy of Arts. When Beckmann was 10 years old, his father passed away.

Beckmann married Minna Tube in 1903, and the two moved to Paris. Beckmann also visited Florence and Geneva, before settling in Berlin in 1904. His first solo show came in 1912, and his earliest paintings show the influence of the impressionsists. His work was popular, and he was able to make a living from his art.

Beckmann served as a medic in World War I, but was dismissed after he suffered a nervous breakdown. It is generally held that his experiences in the war had a big effect on his art, and were an important factor in pushing his style in a more expressionist direction.

In the aftermath of World War I he joined the New Objectivity movement ("neue sachlichkeit") characterized by a new realism. With the knowledge that reality cannot be fully achieved, he revived realism, despised expressionism, and included a cynical and socially critical posture in his paintings. This group coincided with artists like Otto Dix and George Grosz, also from Germany and a group that despised war. Beckmann himself was not involved in any political movement, nor did he advertise his own political opinions.

Beckmann taught art in Frankfurt am Main from 1915, but was dismissed from his post by the Nazi Party in 1933. At the beginning of the 30s, he made visits to Paris to paint, and it was around this time that he began to use the triptych format, influenced in part by Hieronymus Bosch. Other influences include the mythical figures from Delacroix and Rubens.

His art was condemned as Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) by the Nazis in 1937, and a day after the exhibition of degenerate art opened in Munich, Beckmann moved to Amsterdam. In 1947, assisted by his American patron, the department store magnate Morton May, he was brought to St. Louis, Missouri to teach one year at Washington University, then later to New York City. He died in 1950 of a heart attack while on his way to see an exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum.

Beckmann painted a number of self-portraits, including Self Portrait in Tuxedo (1927), which is widely regarded as a classic. Many of his other works represent scenes from everyday life. They often show grotesque, mutilated bodies, and are seen as commenting on the wrong-doings of the German government in the 1920s and 1930s as well as harking back to his World War I experiences.