12 February 1884, 130 years ago, the painter Max Beckmann was born in Leipzig.
"Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement: for transfiguration, not for the sake of play. It is the quest of our self that drives us along the eternal and never-ending journey we must all make." (Max Beckmann)
|One of Beckmann’s rather unique landscapes, “Eiserner Steg”|
(lit “iron footbridge”, a famous landmark of Frankfurt), 1922
When the perception of some visual artists dismantled the world and put it together again in geometrical forms and colours and others turned their inside out and radically distorted perspective to depict moods and ideas rather than a lowest common denominator, such as reality, it was a rare sight to see an approach that was consciously formed along the lines of the old masters. But that was Max Beckmann’s idea. A well-read loner, he was basically classified as an expressionist but rather not interested in the style’s solipsistic emotionalism and found a niche between abstract art, expressionism and the New Objectivity of the German 1920s with an outlandish spaciousness, a willful figurativeness and a strong story-telling approach that stands out as something unique among the art trends of the first half of the 20th century.
|Max Beckmann: "Die Nacht" (The Night, 1918-19)|
He would not shoot at the French, wrote Beckmann at the outbreak of the Great War, because he learned too much of them and neither at Russians, because Dostoevsky was his friend. Nevertheless, serving as a medical orderly, the four years’ turmoil provided “fodder for his art” and especially in his self-portraits, Beckmann became not only his own chronicler but that of the war years and the time of the Weimar Republic in Germany as well and when the lights went out in 1933, he naturally lost his professorship at the Städelschule Academy of Fine Art in Frankfurt, was filed as “degenerate” and some of his own works along with those of his students were burned during Nazi riots. Beckmann fled to Amsterdam, tried to emigrate to the United States but had to spend the war years in the Netherlands until his immigration was finally granted in 1947. He died in 1950 in New York at the age of 66.
|Max Beckmann: "Odysseus und Calypso" (1943)|
By then, Beckmann was again a professor at the Art School of Brooklyn Museum, but his distinctive style was no longer in favour since taste preferred abstract art and he had become something of a relic with his balanced image constructions and sujets that adapted mythology into an amalgam of past and present into a myth of itself.
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