This exhibition puts a spotlight on artist Max Beckmann's special connection with New York City, featuring 14 paintings that he created while living in New York from 1949 to 1950, as well as 25 earlier works from New York collections. The exhibition assembles several groups of iconic works, including self-portraits; mythical, expressionist interiors; robust, colorful portraits of women and performers; landscapes; and triptychs.
During the late 1920s, Max Beckmann (1884–1950) was at the pinnacle of his career in Germany; his work was presented by prestigious art dealers, he taught at the Städel Art School in Frankfurt, and he moved in a circle of influential writers, critics, publishers, and collectors. After the National Socialists labeled his works "degenerate" and confiscated them from German museums in 1937, Beckmann left the country and immigrated to Holland, where he remained for 10 years. In 1947, he accepted a temporary teaching position in St. Louis, Missouri, and in September 1949, he moved to New York City, which he described as "a prewar Berlin multiplied a hundredfold." Life in Manhattan energized him and resulted in such powerful pictures as Falling Man (1950) and The Town (City Night) (1950).
In late December 1950, Beckmann set out from his apartment on the Upper West Side of New York to see his Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket (1950), which was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition American Painting Today. However, on the corner of 69th Street and Central Park West, the 66-year-old artist suffered a fatal heart attack and never made it to the Museum. The poignant circumstance of the artist's death served as the inspiration for this exhibition.
The exhibition is made possible by The Isaacson-Draper Foundation.
It is supported by an Indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950). Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket (detail), 1950. Oil on canvas, 55 1/8 x 36 in. (140 x 91.4 cm). Saint Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Morton D. May. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn