The stronger and more intense my desire becomes to capture and record that which is unsayable, the more tightly my mouth stays shut.

Max Beckmann

The Descent From the Cross 1917

Max Beckmann, a metaphysical protagonist of reality, expressed in his own terms, crudely, softly, finely; which ever the subject demanded. But the subject did not dictate, Beckmann held the brush!

Beckmann was born in Leipzig on February 12, 1884, to farmer parents from the farming area of Braunschweig. After Max’s birth they gave up the farm and moved into Leipzig where his father, Carl, worked as a real estate agent and flour merchant. Later he took work in a laboratory making artificial meerschaum. Young Max preferred drawing to schoolwork, and began his formal studies in 1900 at the Weimar Art Academy.

In 1903 he married Minna Tube and they both moved to Paris. Beckmann was never influenced by any art movement, or the work of any artist. That is a hard thing to say and mean about any artist living or dead. Oh yes, he studied the classics, but had so very real an energy, so real a need to express himself that imitation of any kind, outside the Aristolean meaning, would never have satisfied his lust or vision.

He painted freely.

Beckmann probably painted more self-portraits than any other artist. He painted subjects from the entertainment world, many portraits of family and friends, and countless allegorical compositions with characters symbolic of ancient myths.

Beckmann spent the years of World War Two in Germany, outlawed by Hitler from exhibiting, but his paintings, though branded as “degenerate by the Third Reich, were never confiscated or destroyed. He was drafted, but rejected as unfit. After the war he came to America where he and his wife lived in Missouri. Beckmann was a Painter in residence at Washington University in St. Louis.

In the late ’40s he moved to Manhattan, where he died of a heart attack enroute to see his work in a show at the Metropolitan Museum on December 27, 1950. many say he was merely walking his dog, but at any rate he was caught in the middle of living.

Nothing meant more to Max Beckmann than his own originality, as a human being, and as an artist. He was a deeply spiritual man, with his own ideas, and we end with this quote, the one we started with, for it sums up this man entirely: “The greatest mystery of all is reality.”



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