“All my life I have tried to create a self.” The hundred or so self-portraits Max Beckmann produced played their part in establishing him as one of the great portrait painters of his day. He applied his qualities to himself in the same way as to any other subject. We usually search in vain for the brush and palette, those classical attributes of artistic self-depiction.

Beckmann repeatedly projects himself as an elegant man of the world, staring down the viewer with cool self-composure. The art dealer J. B. Neumann, a friend of Max Beckmann, wrote in his memoirs: “In fact, Beckmann revelled in the notion that he was more than ‘just a painter’.” This self-projection, he went on, had to be seen in the light of social ambitions which Beckmann “cherished and yet also scorned”.

But Beckmann also likes his self-portraits to surprise us with constant new poses and masquerades. One example is “Self-Portrait With Champagne Glass”, a post-war work from 1919, where we encounter the artist a little tipsy and wearing a sarcastic smile. A sense of insecurity and futility had taken hold since the Great War, but Beckmann responds with his own brand of ironic detachment: “Here I sit in a posh hotel room, with a lighted cigarette and a bottle of red wine before me. It amuses me to watch the smoke from my cigarette […] or [to think] of the grotesque variations on my life.”

We invite you to explore the many faces of Max Beckmann. 14 self-portraits from different periods are on show at our exhibition Max Beckmann and Berlin.

Read more stories about Max Beckmann here.


Berlinische Galerie

Landesmuseum für Moderne
Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur
Stiftung Öffentlichen Rechts

Alte Jakobstraße 124–128
10969 Berlin Germany


Tel +49 (0)30-789 02-600
Fax +49 (0)30-789 02-700

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Wednesday–Monday 10 am–6 pm

Closed on 24.12. and 31.12.

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