Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950) was an Expressionist painter, though he shunned both the movement and the term. He worked primarily with oil on canvas, but he also dabbled in sculpture, printmaking, and drawing. He was born into a middle class family in Leipzig, Saxony, and taught himself to paint, imitating the masters such as Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), Rembrandt (Dutch, 1606–1669), and Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640). His works would later be heavily influenced both by these painters and by his stint as a medic during World War I.

Beckmann enjoyed his greatest success as a painter during the Weimar Republic. He taught a master class in art at Städelschule Academy of Fine Art in Frankfurt in 1925, and he received the Gold Medal of the City of Düsseldorf and the Honorary Empire prize for German Art in 1927. However, Hitler's rise to power and his banning of Modern Art was disastrous for Beckmann; Hitler removed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt, and Beckmann was forced to flee from Germany to Amsterdam. Unsuccessful in his attempts to attain a visa for passage to the United States, he languished in poverty and suffered his first of several heart attacks. However, he continued to paint, creating some of his most famous pieces, including Lido, Self Portrait, and Paris Society. The Bark was purchased by the National Gallery of Berlin just prior to Hitler's taking power. Beckmann is also well-known for a series of self-portraits created during his lifetime, which rivaled Picasso's in number. After the war, Beckmann relocated to the United States where he taught at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

His work has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute in Chicago, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and a host of other galleries in Madrid, Zurich, Rome, and St. Louis, where the largest display of his work in the world can be found. In 1948, Beckmann published "Letters to a Woman Painter," and Stephan Reimertz, a French novelist and historian of art, published Beckmann's biography in 2003. Beckmann died in Manhattan in 1950 of an apparent heart attack.

Timeline

1884
Born in Leipzig, Germany
1900
Attends Grossherzogliche Kunstschule, Weimar (Studied art with Carl Frithjof Smith)
1949
Awarded first prize in the exhibition Painting in the United States
1950
Died: December 27th in New York City, NY

Exhibitions

2011
Die unbekannte Sammlung - Klassiker der Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany
2007–2008
Max Beckmann - Exile in Amsterdam, Pinakothek der Moderne, Kunst
2006
Max Beckmann. Die Aquarelle und Pastelle, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany
2003
Max Beckmann, Museum of Modern Art, New York
2003
Max Beckmann, Tate Modern, London
1997
Beckmann in Exile, Guggenheim Museum New York, NY
1996
Max Beckmann, Galeria d'Arte Moderna Rome, Italy
1991
Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, Los Angeles County Museum Los Angeles, CA
1986
Expressionism-Die Avantgarde in Deutschland 1905-1920, Nationalgalerie and Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, Germany
1986
German Realist Drawings of the 1920's, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, NY
1985
German Art of the 20th Century, Royal Academy London, England
1980
Expressionism: A German Intuition, Guggenheim Museum New York, NY
1965
Max Beckmann, Tate Gallery London, England
1964
Max Beckmann Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY
1950
Max Beckmann zum Gedächtnis, Haus der Kunst Munich, Germany
1938
Recent Paintings by Max Beckmann, Buchholz Gallery New York
1938
20th Century German Art, New Burlington Galleries London, England
1937
Degenerate Art, Circulated by Nazis
1931
German Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY
1931
1st Paris exhibition, Galerie de la Renaissance
1926
1st US Exhibition, I.B. Neumann's New Art Circle New York
1917
Print Exhibition, I.B.Neumann Berlin, Germany
1913
Max Beckmann, Galerie Paul Cassier Berlin, Germany
1912
First solo show at the Kunstverein, Magdeburg and the Grossherzogliches Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, Weimar
1906
Deutscher Künstlerbund Weimar