About us
Artists Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann Photo

Max Beckmann

German Painter, Printmaker, and Draftsman

Movements and Styles: Expressionism, New Objectivity

Born: February 21, 1884 - Leipzig, Germany

Died: December 27, 1950 - New York, New York, USA

Max Beckmann Timeline

Quotes

"...I would meander through all the sewers of the world, through degradations and humiliations, in order to paint. I have to do this. Until the last drop every vision that exists in my being must be purged; then it will be a pleasure for me to be rid of this damned torture."
Max Beckmann
"I believe that essentially I love painting so much because it forces me to be objective. There is nothing I hate more than sentimentality. The stronger my determination grows to grasp the unutterable things of this world, the deeper and more powerful the emotion burning inside me about our existence, the tighter I try to keep my mouth shut and the harder I try to capture the terrible thrilling monster of life's vitality and to confine it, to beat it down and to strangle it with crystal clear, razor-sharp lines and planes..."
Max Beckmann
"The artist in the contemporary sense is the conscious shaper of the transcendent idea. He is at one and the same time that shaper and the vessel."
Max Beckmann
"all theory and all matters of principle in painting are hateful to me."
Max Beckmann
"What I want to show in my work is the idea that hides itself behind so-called reality. I am seeking the bridge that leads from the visible to the invisible..."
Max Beckmann

"My heart beats more for a rougher, commoner, more vulgar art...one that offers direct access to the terrible, the crude, the magnificent, the ordinary, the grotesque and the banal in life. An art that can always be right there for us, in the realest things of life."

Max Beckmann Signature

Synopsis

After enduring a "great injury to his soul" during World War I, Max Beckmann channeled his experience of modern life into expressive images that haunt the viewer with their intensity of emotion and symbolism. Despite his early leanings toward academicism and Expressionism, he became one of the main artists associated with the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement and created scathing visual critiques of the tumultuous interwar period. In later works, Beckmann strove toward open-ended stories that juxtaposed scenes from reality, dreams, myths, and fables. Throughout his career, he firmly opposed the turn toward abstract art and maintained his desire to "get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting." Beckmann's prowess at subtly layering figures and signs, as well as color and shadow, allowed him to successfully translate his reality into mesmerizing narrative paintings throughout his prolific career.

Key Ideas

Beckmann was a medical officer during World War I, an experience that instigated a drastic shift in his artistic style away from a traditional, academic technique towards a more critically engaged and expressive style of painting.
Beckmann deftly combined allegorical figures and images from reality in artworks rife with semiotic play that conveyed his individual interpretation of the cultural, social, and political climate throughout his career.
Beckmann was preoccupied by the desire for thorough self-knowledge and, in this pursuit, executed over 85 self-portraits in a variety of media. This continued refinement of self-representation underlined his firm, lifelong belief in the importance of the autonomy of artists and their visions of the world.
Beckmann experimented with the format of a triptych, or three-paneled painting. He translated the antiquated format, previously used only for medieval religious paintings, into the ideal support for his modern secular allegories.

Biography

Max Beckmann Photo

Childhood

Max Beckmann was born and raised in Leipzig, Germany, the youngest of three children in an upper-middle-class family. His father, Carl Beckmann, was a grain merchant who passed away in 1894. His mother, Antoine Beckmann, relocated the family to Braunschweig, where Max lived with his mother and brother for the next several years. He attended a few private educational institutions, including a boarding school run by a Protestant minister from which he infamously ran away when he was ten.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Max Beckmann Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Max Beckmann
Interactive chart with Max Beckmann's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Eugène DelacroixEugène Delacroix
Edvard MunchEdvard Munch

Personal Contacts

George GroszGeorge Grosz
Otto DixOtto Dix

Movements

ImpressionismImpressionism
SymbolismSymbolism
RomanticismRomanticism

Influences on Artist
Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann
Years Worked: 1904-1950
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Philip GustonPhilip Guston
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Leon GolubLeon Golub

Personal Contacts

George GroszGeorge Grosz
Otto DixOtto Dix

Movements

ExpressionismExpressionism
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Modernism and Modern ArtModernism and Modern Art

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]