“The Nationalgalerie wrote today that the paintings had been a great sensation. […] Everyone is torn between enthusiasm and rage. […] Berlin Dresden Munich then Paris & New York,” Max Beckmann proudly reported in a letter in 1925, before his international career took off.

Around the same time he told his art dealer J. B. Neumann with prophetic euphoria: “You will not regret the confidence you have almost fatalistically placed in me. – My will, now entirely unshackled, is condensing into an energy which even I find unnerving. – My major works are still to come!!!” In his memoirs, Neumann often highlighted the role Berlin played in Beckmann’s international aspirations: “Ambitious as Beckmann was, and unshakable in his conviction that he would one day be hailed as a first-class artist, he was nevertheless a realist. Frankfurt had been a haven where he licked the wounds inflicted by his defeat in those early Berlin years. Berlin was always his ultimate destination – at least in Germany, for ambition already drew his thoughts beyond the borders of his homeland. He had London, Paris, all of Europe in his sights.”

Beckmann’s art dealers in Berlin were key to facilitating this leap to international fame. He was championed by the leading gallery managers of his day: Paul Cassirer, J. B. Neumann, Alfred Flechtheim and after 1933 Curt Valentin. At the height of his national and international success, the world was hit by the Great Depression, and from 1929 Beckmann’s art dealers were facing serious problems. They no longer had the resources to fund the artist. Then, from 1933, Nazi dictatorship throttled the cultivation of modern art in Germany.

In 1937 Beckmann, whose works had already been classified as “degenerate” in 1933, sought exile in Amsterdam. After the Second World War he emigrated to the United States, where he was celebrated as an artist. He never returned to Germany.

Read more stories about Max Beckmann here.

 

Berlinische Galerie

Landesmuseum für Moderne
Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur
Stiftung Öffentlichen Rechts

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