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

Küstenlandschaft mit Ballon

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Küstenlandschaft mit Ballon
signed and dated 'Beckmann 32' (lower right)
oil on canvas
28½ x 41½ in. (72.4 x 105.5 cm.)
Painted in October 1932
The artist's studio.
Kunsthandlung Schumann, Frankfurt, by whom acquired from the above.
Private collection, Wiesbaden, by 1940, and thence by descent to the present owner.
E. & B. Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, no. 366, p. 254 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 125).
'Gesang der Fische. Der Malerund das Meer: Max Beckmann im Bucerius-Kunstforum Hamburg', in Berliner Tagesspiegel, 19 January 2004 (illustrated).
Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstkabinett Hanna Bekker vom Rath, Max Beckmann, July - August 1955, no. 9.
Wiesbaden, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Moderne Kunst aus Wiesbadener Privatbesitz, 1957, no. 13.
Hamburg, Bucerius Kunstforum, Menschen am Meer, November 2003 - February 2004.
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Seestücke von Max Beckmann bis Gerhard Richter, June - September 2007.
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Lot Essay

'And always the sea plays in my thoughts, from near and far, through sun and storm. Then the forms condense into things that seem understandable to me within the great emptiness and uncertainty of space which I call God' (Max Beckmann, quoted in exh. cat., Max Beckmann Retrospective, St. Louis, 1984, p. 32).

The sea, 'my old girlfriend' as Beckmann once referred to it, played an important role in his art throughout his life. From his earliest pictures of the Deluge and the Titanic to his playful Mediterranean beach scenes of the 1920s and his later allegorical paintings of adventure and existential wandering on the ocean, the sea was a central and vital presence in many of Beckmann's works. In the 1930s, under the increasingly oppressive political climate of the time, the sea became for Beckmann as it did for many other artists then living in Germany, an enduring and almost irresistible symbol of freedom, exile and escape. Painted in October 1932 on the eve of the Nazis coming to power, Küstenlandschaft mit Ballon (Coastal Landscape with Balloon) is an apparently naturalistic work heavily infused with an atmosphere of longing for escape.

Depicting a pair of fishing boats left on the shore, the painting also illustrates three men in a rowing boat setting out to sea. Above them, recalling Beckmann's mysterious 1917 Landschaft mit Luftballon, a hot-air balloon floats towards the inviting horizon. Painted while Beckmann was also working on his vast triptych Abfahrt ( Departure) in which a sea-voyage also appears as a symbol of hope amidst the horror of a world gone mad, this painting reinforces the strong and mysterious existential sense of odyssey that underpins many of Beckmann's finest works from this time.


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