Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Beginning

Artist:
Max Beckmann (German, Leipzig 1884–1950 New York)
Date:
1946–49
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Overall: 69 x 125 1/2 in. (175.3 x 318.8 cm); left (a): 65 × 33 1/2 in. (165.1 × 85.1 cm); center (b): 69 × 59 in. (175.3 × 149.9 cm); right (c): 65 × 33 1/2 in. (165.1 × 85.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876-1967), 1967
Accession Number:
67.187.53a-c
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 901
As a child growing up in Leipzig, Germany, Beckmann was especially fond of illustrating imaginative journeys. In Beginning, Beckmann looks back to his childhood with fondness and humor. Completed in 1949 when the artist was sixty-five years old, the panels are autobiographical. Beckmann’s memories of his schooldays in Germany are balanced by a dream fantasy on the right and left panels, respectively. In the central panel, childhood memories and dreamworlds intermingle. Deeply impacted by both World Wars and his exile from Germany, Beckmann’s work typically integrates tragic themes with expressionistic brushwork and bright colors.
#1842. Beginning
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Inscription: Signed and dated (right panel, lower right): Beckmann/ St L. 49
[Buchholz Gallery, New York, 1949; purchased from the artist on September 15, 1949; stock no. 11304; sold on October 15, 1949 to de Groot]; Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York (1949–d. 1967; on extended loan to the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn., 1949–56; her bequest to MMA)

New York. Buchholz Gallery, Curt Valentin. "Max Beckmann: Recent Work," October 18–November 5, 1949, no. 22 (as "Beginning. Triptych," 1949).

Hartford, Conn. Wadsworth Atheneum. "Adelaide Milton de Groot Loan Collection," January 10–February 12, 1950, unnum. checklist.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Modern European Paintings from New York Private Collections," June 22–September 30, 1956, no catalogue.

Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "Masterpieces from the Adelaide Milton de Groot Collection," December 2, 1958–March 1, 1959, no. 1 (as "Beginning [Triptych]," 1949).

Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne. "Max Beckmann," September 25–October 28, 1968, no. 100 (as "Triptyque 'Beginning'," 1949).

Haus der Kunst, Munich. "Max Beckmann," November 9, 1968–January 6, 1969, no. 96 (as "Triptychon Beginning," 1949).

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. "Max Beckmann," January 16–March 2, 1969, no. 96.

Philadelphia. Peale House Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "Max Beckmann: Paintings, Graphics, and Drawings," April 23–May 3, 1970, no catalogue.

Washington, D.C. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. "The Golden Door: Artist-Immigrants of America, 1876–1976," May 20–October 20, 1976, no. 179 (as "Beginning").

London. Whitechapel Art Gallery. "Max Beckmann: The Triptychs," November 13, 1980–January 11, 1981, unnumbered cat. (p. 53).

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Max Beckmann: Triptieken," January 23–March 8, 1981, unnumbered cat.

Frankfurt. Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut. "Max Beckmann: Die Triptychen im Städel," April 16–June 21, 1981, no. 8.

Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale. "Max Beckmann," April 6–May 1, 1983, no. 31.

Haus der Kunst, Munich. "Max Beckmann: Retrospective," February 25–April 23, 1984, no. 122.

Nationalgalerie Berlin. "Max Beckmann: Retrospective," May 18–July 29, 1984, no. 122.

Saint Louis Art Museum. "Max Beckmann: Retrospective," September 7–November 4, 1984, no. 122.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Max Beckmann: Retrospective," December 9, 1984–February 3, 1985, no. 122.

Canberra. Australian National Gallery. "20th Century Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," March 1–April 27, 1986, unnumbered cat. (p. 69).

Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery. "20th Century Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," May 7–July 1, 1986, unnumbered cat.

New York. Guggenheim Museum Soho. "Max Beckmann in Exile," October 9, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 19 (as "Beginning").

Paris. Centre Pompidou, Galerie 1. "Max Beckmann, un peintre dans l'histoire," September 10, 2002–January 6, 2003, unnumbered cat. (pp. 322–23).

New York. MoMA QNS. "Max Beckmann," June 25–September 30, 2003, no. 84.

Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. "Drei: Das Triptychon in der Moderne," February 7–June 14, 2009, unnumbered cat. (pp. 94–95; as "Beginning").

Frankfurt. Städel Museum. "Beckmann and America," October 7, 2011–January 8, 2012, no. 68 (as "The Beginning").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Max Beckmann in New York," October 19, 2016–February 20, 2017, no. 27.

Benno Reifenberg and Wilhelm Hausenstein. Max Beckmann. Munich, 1949, p. 82, no. 656, date it 1949 and list it in the collection of the artist, New York.

Dorothy Seckler. "Reviews and Previews: Max Beckmann." Art News 47 (November 1949), p. 52.

Emily Genauer. "Beckmann's Harnessed Power." Art Digest 24 (November 1, 1949), p. 13.

Howard Devree. "Van Gogh in Full: The Metropolitan Opens a Comprehensive Loan Exhibition—Two Beckmann Shows." New York Times (October 23, 1949), p. X9, ill. (middle panel).

Max Beckmann. Letters to Curt Valentin. March 28, April/May, and May 21, 1949, published in Ref. Gallwitz and Harter 1996, pp. 249 (letter 910), 256 (letter 920), 261 (letter 926).

Max Beckmann. Letter to Reinhard Piper. April 8, 1949, published in Ref. Gallwitz and Harter 1996, p. 251 (letter 914).

Max Beckmann. Letter to Minna Beckmann-Tube. April 19, 1949, published in Ref. Gallwitz and Harter 1996, p. 253 (letter 917).

Max Beckmann. Letter to Helmuth Lütjens. December 22, 1949, published in Ref. Gallwitz and Harter 1996, p. 298 (letter 968).

C[harles]. C. C[unningham]. "Adelaide Milton de Groot Loan Collection." Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin no. 13 (January 1950), p. 1, ill.

Clifford Amyx. "Max Beckmann: The Iconography of the Triptychs." Kenyon Review 13 (Autumn 1951), p. 622.

H. W. Janson. "Max Beckmann in America." Magazine of Art 44 (March 1951), pp. 90, 92, ill. p. 89, dates it 1949 and surmises that it may have been inspired by the compilation of Beckmann's biography for a 1948 Saint Louis exhibition catalogue.

Erhard Göpel in In Memoriam: Max Beckmann, 12.2.1884–27.12.1950. Ed. Erhard Göpel. [Frankfurt], 1953, pp. 24, 28.

Erhard Göpel. Max Beckmann in seinen späten Jahren. Munich, 1955, p. 53.

Stuart Preston. "Matisse Graphics." New York Times (July 1, 1956), p. X8, mentions this work in Exh. New York 1956.

Erhard Göpel. Max Beckmann: Die Argonauten, ein Triptychon. Stuttgart, 1957, p. 19, calls it "Enfance".

Erhard Göpel. "Max Beckmann, 1884–1950." Die grossen Deutschen 4 (1957), pp. 536–37, 545.

Charles Kessler. "Max Beckmann's Triptychs." Arts Magazine 39 (December 1964), pp. 51–52.

Stephan Lackner. Max Beckmann, 1884–1950: Die neun Triptychen. Berlin, 1965, p. 26, ill. (color).

Frederick Zimmermann. Beckmann in America: The Address Delivered by Frederick Zimmermann Before the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft at Murnau on July 15, 1962. New York, 1967, p. 14.

Gert Schiff. "Max Beckmann: Die Ikonographie der Triptychen, Umrisse einer geplanten Arbeit." Munuscula Discipulorum. Kunsthistorische Studien, Hans Kauffmann zum 70 Geburstag, 1966. Ed. Tilmann Buddensieg and Matthias Winner. Berlin, 1968, pp. 281–82, pl. 237, dates it 1949.

Gottfried Sello. "Beckmann zwischen Aktualitat und Historie. Zur Ausstellung im Münchner Haus der Kunst." Die Zeit (November 15, 1968), ill.

L[aszlo]. G[lozer]. "Max Beckmann's Beginning." Süddeutsche Zeitung (November 23, 1968), ill.

Friedhelm Fischer. "Max Beckmann. Neue Wege zum Verstandnis seiner Kunst." Neue Zürcher Zeitung (July 27, 1969), ill.

Charles S. Kessler. Max Beckmann's Triptychs. Cambridge, Mass., 1970, pp. 77–86, 145, 161 n. 1, p. 162 n. 10, no. 8, ill. p. 76 (color), calls it "Beginning" and dates it 1948–49; discusses it as an allegory of the artist's childhood, with the right panel reflecting Beckmann's schooldays; interprets the boy wearing a crown and staring at the blind organ-grinder in the left panel as "a vision of the artist's fate and the stigma of genius"; reads the central panel, dominated by the child on a rocking horse, as a combination of "childhood memory and childish fancy" where the ladder symbolizes the artist's easel.

Friedhelm Wilhelm Fischer. Max Beckmann: Symbol und Weltbild. Grundriss zu einer Deutung des Gesamtwerkes. Munich, 1972, pp. 202–5, pl. 55 (left panel), dates it 1949.

Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, ed. Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde. Vol. 1, Katalog und Dokumentation. Bern, 1976, pp. 477–78, 537, 544, 559, no. 789, note that it was started in Amsterdam in 1946 and completed in 1949 in Saint Louis.

Cynthia Jaffee McCabe. The Golden Door: Artist-Immigrants of America, 1876–1976. Exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D. C., 1976, pp. 362–64, no. 179, ill. (color), dates it 1949.

Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, ed. Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde. Vol. 2, Tafeln und Bibliographie. Bern, 1976, pls. 292–94.

Max Beckmann. Tagebücher 1940–1950. Ed. Erhard Göpel with footnotes by Mathilde Q. Beckmann. Munich, 1979, pp. 161, 173, 178–80, 187–89, 301, 304, 309, 311–14, 316, 318–20, 322–23, 325, 327–29, 331, 348, 350, 356, 432–33, mentions preparing the stretchers for this triptych in August 1946, and working on the painting for the first time in October 1946; variously calls it "gestiefelten Kater" [Puss in Boots], "Monster-Tryptich," "l'Enfance," "l'Enfant," "Jeunesse," "Kater," "Kindheit," and "Beginning".

Nicholas Serota in Max Beckmann: The Triptychs. Ed. Nicholas Serota. Exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery. [London], 1981, pp. 52–53, ill. (color) [German ed., Frankfurt, 1981, pp. 51, 60, no. 8, ill. p. 50 (color)].

Gert Schiff in Max Beckmann: The Triptychs. Ed. Nicholas Serota. Exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery. [London], 1981, p. 20 [German ed., Frankfurt, 1981, p. 78, ill. p. 79 (middle panel)].

Clifford Amyx in Max Beckmann: Die Triptychen im Städel. Ed. Klaus Gallwitz. Exh. cat., Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut. Frankfurt, 1981, p. 99, ill. pp. 98 (overall), 100 (left panel), 101 (right panel).

Stephan Lackner in Max Beckmann: The Triptychs. Ed. Nicholas Serota. Exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery. [London], 1981, p. 23 [German ed., Frankfurt, 1981, p. 83].

Henry R. Hope. Max Beckmann. Exh. cat., Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale . Fort Lauderdale, 1983, unpaginated, no. 31, ill. front cover (color), dates it 1949.

James D. Burke in Max Beckmann: Retrospective. Ed. Carla Schulz–Hoffmann and Judith C. Weiss. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich. Saint Louis, 1984, pp. 64, 67.

Peter Selz in Max Beckmann: Retrospective. Ed. Carla Schulz–Hoffmann and Judith C. Weiss. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich. Saint Louis, 1984, p. 164.

Christian Lenz in Max Beckmann: Retrospective. Ed. Carla Schulz–Hoffmann and Judith C. Weiss. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich. Saint Louis, 1984, pp. 310–12, no. 122, ill. (color).

Doris Schmidt in Max Beckmann: Retrospective. Ed. Carla Schulz–Hoffmann and Judith C. Weiss. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich. Saint Louis, 1984, p. 470.

Fritz Erpel. Max Beckmann: Leben im Werk. Die Selbstbildnisse. Munich, 1985, pp. 373–74, no. 207/A, pl. 295 (center panel).

Kay Larson. "The Met Goes Modern: Bill Lieberman's Brave New Wing." New York Magazine 19 (December 15, 1986), p. 47, ill. p. 44 (color).

Michael Desmond in 20th Century Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Australian National Gallery. Canberra, 1986, pp. 68–69, ill. (color).

Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, p. 141, ill. p. 140 (color, center panel), colorpl. 118, date it 1949.

Uwe M. Schneede in Max Beckmann: Gemälde 1905–1950. Ed. Klaus Gallwitz. Exh. cat., Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig. Stuttgart, 1990, pp. 40, 43.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, pp. 442–43, no. 22, ill. (color), calls it "Beginning".

Deborah Solomon. "The Gallery: Max Beckmann in Exile." Wall Street Journal (November 20, 1996), p. A20.

Robert Hughes. "Scenes of Hellish Heat." Time 148 (December 16, 1996), p. 80, ill. p. 78 (color).

Reinhard Spieler in Max Beckmann in Exile. Exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum Soho. New York, 1996, pp. 65–66, 75, 77, no. 19, ill. p. 66 (color, left panel), colorpl. 19.

Barbara Stehlé-Akhtar in Max Beckmann in Exile. Exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum Soho. New York, 1996, p. 44, ill. p. 20 (color, central panel detail).

Klaus Gallwitz with Ursula Harter, ed. Max Beckmann Briefe. Vol. 3, 1937–1950. Munich, 1996, pp. 249, 251, 253, 256, 261, 298, 436, 478, 480–84, 488, 498, 507.

Richard Feigen. Tales from the Art Crypt: The Painters, the Museums, the Curators, the Collectors, the Auctions, the Art. New York, 2000, pp. 135–36.

Ortrud Westheider in Beckmann. Ed. Didier Ottinger. Exh. cat., Centre Pompidou, Galerie 1. Paris, 2002, pp. 316, 403, ill. pp. 322–23 (color).

Didier Ottinger in Max Beckmann. Ed. Sean Rainbird. Exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. [New York], 2003, pp. 142, 288, no. 84, ill. pp. 140–41 (color) [French ed., Paris, 2002, p. 21].

Marion Ackermann, ed. Drei. Das Triptychon in der Moderne. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. Ostfildern, 2009, pp. 94–97, 318, ill. (color).

Swantje Karich. "Der Schwerarbeiter im Abendschein." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (October 8, 2011), ill. (color).

Ursula Harter in Beckmann and America. Ed. Jutta Schütt. Exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2011, pp. 166–69, no. 68, ill. (color).

Reinhard Spieler. Max Beckmann 1884–1950: The Path to Myth. Cologne, 2011, p. 170, ill. p. 181 (color).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 415, ill. (color), as "Beginning".

Sabine Rewald. Max Beckmann in New York. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2016, pp. 27–28, 62, 104–7, 140 n. 83, no. 27, ill. (color, overall and center panel detail).

Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 528, ill. (color), colorpl. 461, calls it "Beginning" and dates it 1949.



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