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    Sale 7562

    Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

    4 February 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 34

    Max Beckmann (1884-1950)

    Kleine Landschaft, Viareggio

    Price Realised  

    Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
    Kleine Landschaft, Viareggio
    signed and dated 'Beckmann F 25' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    20 7/8 x 14 1/8 in. (53 x 35.8 cm.)
    Painted in Frankfurt in September 1925


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    Painted in the year of the first Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Mannheim, in which Beckmann's work was included, Kleine Landschaft, Viareggio is a strange and eerie landscape that displays many of the features common to this much-debated post-Expressionist tendency in German art.

    Kleine Landschaft, Viareggio depicts a scene from the coastal Tuscan town of Viareggio where, in the summer of 1925, Beckmann and his new wife Mathilde ('Quappi') had gone for part of their honeymoon. The work is one of two paintings of the beach in the Italian town that Beckmann made on his return to Frankfurt. Devoid of all figures and even eerily omitting the inclusion of telegraph wires between the poles, the empty coastal scene that Beckmann presents in this deceptively simple work with its vibrant and strange trio of sailing ships set at its centre is one that deliberately invokes a profound sense of mystery.

    This metaphysical sense of there being an enigma or mystery at the heart of reality and existence is one that Beckmann constantly sought to evoke in his work. It is this, and perhaps only this that relates his work the Neue Sachlichkeit tendency-a tendency that was to a large extent rooted in the strange classicism of the pittura metafisica painters Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. 'My aim' Beckmann once said, 'is always to get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting - to make the invisible visible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is, in fact reality which forms the mystery of our existence', adding that he was 'seeking for the bridge which leads from the visible to the invisible, like the famous cabbalist who once said: "If you wish to get hold of the invisible, you must penetrate as deeply as possible into the visible." To penetrate is to go through' (Beckmann quoted in 'On My Painting', 1938, B.C. Buenger (ed.), Max Beckmann: Self Portrait in Words, 1997, p. 302).

    In Kleine Landschaft, Viareggio, Beckmann's use of the deep perspective of a narrow street and its buildings with dark empty windows clearly draws on a similar sense of strangeness and enigma to some of de Chirico's early metaphysical paintings, without resorting to their more poetic fetishisation of the object. Illuminating the horizon-line against the sombre background of a dark grey day and utilising its innate mystery, Beckmann presents in this work a bizarre vista that appears to depict reality but which in fact operates like a religious icon or a mandala - as a window-like image for contemplation.

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    Provenance

    The artist's studio.
    Peter Speyer, Paris, before 1928.
    Emil Strauss, Nice, after 1963.
    Galerie Wilhelm Grosshennig, Dusseldorf, by 1969.
    Morton D. May, St. Louis, by whom acquired from the above in May 1970, and thence by descent to Margie Wolcott May, St. Louis; sale, Christie's, London, 23 June 1986, lot 51.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN


    Literature

    W. Hausenstein, 'Max Beckmann', in Die Kunst, vol. 59, 1929, p. 159.
    E. & B. Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, no. 244 , pp. 178-179 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 87).
    S. Lackner, Max Beckmann, New York, 1977, no. 11, p. 92 (illustrated p. 93).
    Exh. cat., Max Beckmann: Retrospektive, Haus der Kunst, Munich, February - April 1984 (illustrated p. 33).
    Exh. cat., Max Beckmann: Meisterwerke 1907-1950, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, September 1994 - January 1995 (illustrated p. 24).


    Exhibited

    Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann: Das gesammelte Werk, February - April 1928, no. 84.
    Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Max Beckmann, April - May 1928, no. 33.
    Frankfurt, Kunstverein, Max Beckmann, October - November 1929, no. 12.
    Basel, Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann, August 1930, no. 52.
    Zurich, Kunsthaus, Max Beckmann, September - October 1930, no. 40. Bad Homburg, Kurhaus, Mittelrheinische Landschaftsmalerei von 1730 bis 1930, April - May 1931, no. 9.
    Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann: Landschaft als Fremde, August - November 1998, no. 13 (illustrated p. 72); this exhibition later travelled to Bielefeld, Kunsthalle, November 1998 - February 1999 and Vienna, Kunstforum, March - June 1999.