To See This Weekend: Max Beckmann In New York

Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter can expect one of the museum’s greatest homages to the German expressionist painter and short lived New Yorker, Max Beckmann. The show, in fact, titled Max Beckmann In New York is inspired by the artist’s life and unusual circumstance of his death in Manhattan. Beckmann died from a heart attack in 1950 on his way to see once of his painting, Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket, on display then in the MET’s collection. The current show presents 40 works painted or completed in New York sixteen month prior to his death, and earlier paintings that now belong in New York collections.

Although Beckmann lived in New York briefly, the time he spent in the city was some of the most important and productive in his career. The galleries in the MET’s exhibition reflect that; some follow time frames of Beckmann’s self-portraits, his days in Frankfurt; his voluntary exile in Amsterdam; and three years in Saint Louis and New York. The exhibition also follows more thematic topics, like Beckmann’s paintings of landscapes, cities and interiors; hell and other places, and the artist’s muses. Perhaps the most striking works in the show are Beckmann’s large and small, vibrantly colored self-portraits. The artist painted and drew more than 80, from childhood through his early sixties.

The exhibition is also a snapshot of Beckmann’s life in the context of political upheaval, war and displacement. After Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany in 1933, the artist’s works were deemed degenerate and confiscated from German public collections. Beckmann moved to Amsterdam and never returned to Germany. His decade long, voluntary exile to Amsterdam (1937-1947), is documented in the show with paintings of boisterous restaurants and lively hotel lobbies that the artist created from memory and imagination as the occupying German powers had closed most places of public entertainment.  The exhibition is on display through February 20th.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10028; met

Words By Rocky Casale