Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
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Max Beckmann (1884-1950)

Frühstückstisch (blau)

Details
Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Frühstückstisch (blau)
signed and dated 'Max Beckmann B 34' (upper left)
oil on canvas
15¾ x 39 3/8 in. (40 x 100 cm.)
Painted in Berlin in 1934
Provenance
Stephan Lackner, Santa Barbara, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York (no. 4073).
Dr Ferdinand Ziersch, Wuppertal, before 1955.
Galerie Wilhelm Grosshennig, Dusseldorf, by 1960.
Wilhelm Reinold, Hamburg, by whom acquired from the above on 24 October 1960 and thence by descent to the present owners.
Literature
The Artist's Handlist of 1934 (no. R336).
B. Reifenberg & W. Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich, 1949, no. 336.
E. Göpel & B. Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, p. 269, no. 401 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 134).
Exhibited
Bern, Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann, February - March 1938, no. 20 (for sale 1440 FFr.).
Winterthur, Kunstverein, Max Beckmann, April - May 1938, no. 23.
Zurich, Galerie Aktuaryus, Max Beckmann Gemälde und Graphik, June 1938, no. 6.
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Max Beckmann, January 1942, no. 13.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Max Beckmann 1884-1950, November 1955 - January 1956, no. 68; this exhibition later travelled to Basel, January - February 1956, no. 58.
Wuppertal, Städtisches Museum, Max Beckmann 1884-1950, November - December 1956, no. 36.
Dusseldorf, Galerie Wilhelm Grosshenning, October 1960 (illustrated in colour, where purchased by Reinold).
Special notice

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Lot Essay

"My heart is attuned rather to a rougher more ordinary, more vulgar art. Not the kind that lives dreamy fairy-tale moods in a poetic trance, but which gives direct access to the frightful, vulgar, spectacular, ordinary, grotesquely banal in life; an art that can always be immediately present to us where life is most real." Cited in Max Beckmann Retrospective, L.A. County Museum, 1985, p. 18).

Beckmann's Frühstücktisch (blau) (Breakfast table (blue)) shows the daily morning meal of the painter in the year in which it was painted, 1934. Swimming in a sea of blue, somewhat like the ships moored in the harbour of his 1927 painting Der Hafen von Genua (Genoa Harbour), the ordinary and familiar ceramic objects of Beckmann's breakfast collectively build a revealing portrait of the painter's daily life.

Living in Berlin at this time under the new Nazi regime, Beckmann had been dismissed from his teaching post at the Frankfurt Städelschule and was forbidden from exhibiting his work in both German museums and private galleries. Something about the generous display of the objects on the breakfast table in this work seems to convey a sense of the new domesticity of Beckmann's life at this time. Beckmann's still-lifes often reveal the artist retreating to paint a quiet corner of his current abode, and Stephan Lackner, the former owner of this work has pointed out that Beckmann's still-lifes often betrayed the artist's very strong love of privacy. Here, however, it is less the privacy of the artist that is depicted than the banality of his daily life and indeed an oblique reference to the artist's increased detachment from the German art world may be intended by his inclusion on the table of a contemporary art periodical.

In his heavy use of black in this painting Beckmann shows both his knowledge of and admiration for the work of Georges Braque who throughout the 1920s had reduced his subject matter almost exclusively to still-lifes and interior scenes. Braque often used a dark ground on which to work and his famous saying that "during my entire life, my main objective was to paint space" reveals how close his aesthetic was to that of Beckmann who considered space to be "the infinite deity which surrounds us."

The piercing gaze which Beckmann brings to bear on the objects punctuating the space on this breakfast table presents this seemingly ordinary scene as almost an absurdity. Only a year later Beckmann was to write to his friend Reinhard Piper," I am trying to use intensive work to get myself through the talentless insanity of these times. After a while this political gangsterism becomes ridiculously indifferent, and one feel's best in the island of one's soul." (cited in Reinhard Piper, Mein Leben als Verleger: Vormittag -Nachmittag, Munich 1964, p. 340.)
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