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


Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
indistinctly signed and dated 'Max Beckmann A 47' (upper right)
oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 8¾ in. (55 x 22.2 cm.)
Painted in Amsterdam in 1946
The artist's studio.
Curt Valentin, New York, by whom acquired from the above.
Perry T. Rathbone, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and St. Louis, a gift from the above in 1947, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 3 February 2004, lot 18.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
The artist's handlist, Amsterdam, 1946, as '22) Italienerin. Juli fertig. Rathbone St. Louis.'.
B. Reifenberg & W. Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich, 1949, no. 605.
E. & B. Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, no. 722, p. 432 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 265).
St. Louis, City Art Museum, St. Louis Collections, an Exhibition of 20th Century Art, September - October 1948, no. 4.
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Despite being one of the most productive periods of his career, Beckmann had felt imprisoned in Holland during the war years after his flight from Nazi Germany to Amsterdam in the immediate aftermath of Hitlers verbal attack on degenerate avant-garde artists. Throughout this period of exile, the act of creation became Beckmanns form of resistance against the war and its restrictions, often allowing him to create an imagined world of solace. Italienerin (The Italian Woman, 1946) was painted after the war, in a moment of relative peace and hope but while Beckmann was still effectively isolated in Holland. The artist, who loved to travel, had been refused a passport and visa in 1946, and so for the time being at least foreign travel was impossible for him. Through his depiction of an elegant and poised Mediterranean woman, he may have enjoyed temporarily transcending these physical restrictions and possibly evoking memories of past journeys and foreign adventures.

Beckmann had made various journeys to Italy from the mid-1920s onwards, and the lingering influence of the seascapes and portraits he painted whilst in the south can be discerned in many of his paintings from his years in Holland and also perhaps in the bold colouration of the Italian womans dress, sultry features and bright lipstick. Even Beckmanns Italian subjects sometimes had a darker side; the cramped vertical format of this painting with its sitter filling the frame, along with a predominance of black corresponds with the artists diary entries from this time, which reveal both his state of mind and his acceptance of his position: old donkey, you are pretty well off, even though you are somewhat imprisoned in this flat ironing board country. So be still.

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