Max Beckmann was a German painter widely regarded as one of the major figures of the Expressionist and New Objectivity movements. Many of Beckmann’s paintings depict a mix of reality and fantasy, in where strange women and immoral businessmen mingle with nightmarish creatures, as seen his work Bird’s Hell (1938). “I would meander through all the sewers of the world, through degradations and humiliations, in order to paint. I have to do this,” he once uttered. “Until the last drop every vision that exists in my being must be purged; then it will be a pleasure for me to be rid of this damned torture.”
Born on February 12, 1884 in Leipzig, Germany, as a young man he studied the works of Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Peter Paul Rubens. Beckmann served as a medic during World War I, and the distorted style, cynical self-portraits, and depictions of grotesque aspects of humanity are often attributed to the trauma of that experience. In 1933, the Nazi government dismissed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt, and in 1937, he and his wife fled to Amsterdam where they lived for the next 10 years. After the war, he was offered a position to teach at Washington University in St. Louis and so he and his wife moved to America. Beckmann taught in different cities before settling in New York where he was appointed a faculty member at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. He died in New York, NY on December 27, 1950. Today, Beckmann’s works are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main, the Tate Gallery in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Kunstmuseum Basel, among others.