(Germany 12 Feb 1884 – 27 Dec 1950)
32.2 x 22.7 cm platemark
Max Beckmann trained at the Art Academy in Weimar between 1900 and 1903. After graduating he spent a period of further study in Paris before settling in Berlin. By about 1910 he was becoming known as one of Germany's most important young painters.
At the outbreak of the First World War Beckmann joined the medical corps. He was discharged in 1915 after a mental breakdown and went to Frankfurt where he was to remain for 18 years. The experience of the war brought a profound change to his art and he adopted a dense and often impenetrable personal language, rejecting traditional perspective and proportion in favour of the cramped and distorted spaces characteristic of so much of his work. His forms also became angular, pointed and sharp and figures have a certain stiffness and rigidity.
During the war and in the years immediately following drawing and printmaking became more important to Beckmann than painting. He executed important cycles of lithographs in which personal, psychological and social realities are staged in circus or theatrical settings.
Although he produced many prints Beckmann's interest in the technical aspects of printmaking was limited. The majority of his printed oeuvre is made up of drypoints, with a considerable number of lithographs - the two media most similar to drawing on paper - and far fewer woodcuts. Nearly one third of his entire output of 374 prints was made in 1922 and 1923. After 1923 he abandoned printmaking almost completely, the only significant later works are two series of lithographs made in the 1940s.
With its highly original blend of the real and the visionary, Beckmann's work is less explicitly political than that of Grosz and Dix and not as easy to classify as part of the 'Neue Sachlichkeit' (New Objectivity), although he did participate in the movement's exhibition in Mannheim in 1925. In the same year he was appointed professor at the 'Städelsches Kunstinstitut' in Frankfurt. In his role as teacher he stressed the importance of expressing emotional states through compositions dictated by reason and formal structure.
In 1947 he moved to the USA to take up a teaching post. Shortly afterwards he was given a professorship at the Art School of Brooklyn Museum in New York. He continued to win international acclaim and had a one-man exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1950, the year of his death.
In this print Beckmann records his childhood in Leipzig. He shows himself as a boy talking to a friend and discussing the goings-on in the street below, illuminated by three street lamps.
James Hofmaier, Max Beckmann: catalogue raisonné of his prints, 1990, 2 vols.. cat.no. 237
Jacqueline Strecker (Editor), The mad square: modernity in German art 1910-37, Sydney, 2011, 62 (illus.).
Max Beckmann: five works, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, Surry Hills, Jul 2004–Jul 2004
The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910-1937: