Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday Max Beckmann


February 12, 1884. Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 - December 28, 1950) was a German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement. In the 1920s, he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism that opposed its introverted emotionalism. In this image: A visitor looks at the painting "Descant" of Max Beckmann in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, western Germany, Thursday, June 30, 2005.


 One thinks of him, with reason, as quintessentially "German.' Yet his art had the same relationship (or lack of one) to German expressionism as Edouard Manet's did to French impressionism. Beckmann was not interested in the pseudotranscendental aspects of expressionism --its yearnings for a higher world and bleatings about this lower one, its way of ducking into the "mystical' and the "primitive' as an escape from the politics of immediate experience. To him, as to the Dadaists in Berlin, this was for air heads. "My heart beats more for a raw, average vulgar art,' he noted in one of his copious journals, "which doesn't live between sleepy fairy-tale moods and poetry but rather concedes a direct entrance to the fearful, commonplace, splendid and the average grotesque banality in life.' This was in 1909, when the young Leipzig painter was just a month shy of 25. Robert Hughes, review of a show in 1985. LA Times



The bare bone of Beckmann's message is that fame, money and the love of women are not all they are said to be, but the strange, staid-looking conviction with which Beckmann invests his personages carries his painting beyond moralizing to something like magical invocation, a raising of the worst noonday ghosts of the '30s. He was certainly one of the great fabulists of modern art. But unlike the surrealists, he was not content with the effort to tap into a collective unconscious through the littered cellar of the individual self. And unlike lesser but more popular artists like Marc Chagall, he did not permit himself a moment's slump into nostalgia. Always on the move, the exile with one packed bag under the bed, gazing at a future that was bound to be worse than the past, he retained an uncanny ability to go through his fears and find history on the other side of them. Beckmann's art was poised, so to speak, between the sleepwalk and the goose step; on its rigorous and masculine frame are nailed the private splendors and public horrors of the first half of the 20th century. Robert Hughes

Wikipedia here

Beckmann at the Met here

NPR here

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