Although associated with German expressionism and the New Objectivity movement, Max Beckmann occupies his own category as a moral fabulist. His proclivity was for symbolic narratives, often large in scale and complex in iconography, that highlight the tragicomic fate of humanity. The triptych, with its sacred associations, was the format he favoured for important projects, producing a significant number of them at the time of his forced flight from Nazism in 1937. Beckmann's portraits, still-life subjects, nudes and smaller genre pieces are equally invested with a sense of the sacramental. Ever the sceptical recorder of the follies of the world, even his most affectionate works have a cynical edge. 'Mother and daughter' [invested with Beckham's sense of the sacramental]: might be read as a prostitute presented for our inspection by the madam of the brothel. Or perhaps the older woman signifies exhausted Europe, counterpoised with the vital New World of America. Beckmann relocated to the United States in 1947 after a decade spent in Holland.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
Old woman in ermine
Old lady with daughter
Alte dame mit Tochter
oil on canvas
150.5 x 80.5 cm stretcher; 172.4 x 102.9 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.c., black oil "Beckmann / ... 46".
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1987
© Max Beckmann/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Shown in 6 exhibitions
Beckmann, Buchholz Gallery, New York, 17 Nov 1947–12 Dec 1947
Seven Decades, 1895-1965: Crosscurrents in Modern Art, Galleria Odyssia, New York, New York, 26 Apr 1966–21 May 1966
Twelve paintings of women by Max Beckmann, Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York, 07 Feb 1967–04 Mar 1967
Mathilde Quappi Beckmann, 1950-1967?, New York/New York/United States of America
Catherine Viviano Gallery, 1967, New York/New York/United States of America, with Catherine Viviano Gallery 1967. Exhibited in 'Twelve paintings of women by Max Beckmann' 7 Feb - 4 Mar 1967, cat.no.8. Catherine Viviano Gallery handled the estate of Max Beckmann.
Private Collection, 1976, New York/New York/United States of America, Information from 'Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde', Band I; Erhard Göpel, Barbara Göpel; 1976, pg. 437, as New York, Privatbesitz
Grace Borgenicht Gallery, circa 1985, New York/New York/United States of America, Purchased by Galerie Beyeler from Grace Borgenicht Gallery 1985
Galerie Beyeler, 1985-01 May 1987, Basel/Switzerland, Purchased by the AGNSW from Galerie Beyeler 1987. Galerie Beyeler stock no. 10714
Referenced in 16 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers
Max Beckmann, Diary, Unknown, 1946. 1946: 30 April, 7 May, 30 July, 10 August, 11 September, 3 October, 14 November
Peter Beckmann and Peter Selz, Max Beckmann. Sichtbares und Unsichtbares, Stuttgart, 1965, 101 (colour illus.).
Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1997, Sydney, 1997, 12 (colour illus.).
Catherine Viviano Gallery, Twelve paintings of women by Max Beckmann, New York, 1967, (illus.). cat.no. 8
Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 168 (colour illus.).
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 52 (colour illus.).
Renee Free, Look, 'Acquisitions: Old Woman in Ermine', Heidelberg, Oct 1987, 9 (colour illus.).
Galerie Beyeler, aus privaten Sammlungen, Basel, 1986, (colour illus.). cat.no. 4
Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, Band II, Bern, 1976, Tafel 268 (illus.). cat.no. 730
Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, Band I, Bern, 1976, 437. cat.no. 730
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 62 (colour illus.).
Simon Kent, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Gallery boss jumps to Old Woman's defence', Sydney, 25 Aug 1987, 7 (illus).
Fritz Neugass, Die Weltkunst, article, Munich, 1967, 590.
Peter Selz, Seven decades 1895-1965: crosscurrents in modern art, California, 1966, (illus.). cat.no. 263
Michael Wardell, Look, 'Foundation building', pg.14-17, Sydney, Sep 2004, 15.