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

Selbstbildnis mit steifem Hut (Hofmaier 180.IIIB)

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Selbstbildnis mit steifem Hut (Hofmaier 180.IIIB)
drypoint, 1921, on laid paper, watermark Initials BSB in a Double Circle, a superb impression with rich burr, Hofmaier's third state (of four), signed in pencil, inscribed in pencil 2. Zustand, from the first edition of approximately fifty impressions, published by J. B. Neumann, Berlin, with wide margins, very pale light-staining, traces of surface dirt in the margins, remains of paper hinges at the upper sheet corners recto, otherwise in very good condition
P. 313 x 247 mm., S. 494 x 339 mm.
Städtisches Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, Wuppertal-Elberfeld (L. 2586c).
H. Neuerburg (1880-1956), Cologne (L. 1344a), then by descent.
Dr. W. Neuerburg (1912-1986), by descent from the above; his sale, Christie's, New York, 1 November 1988, lot 5 (for $88,000).
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Max Beckmann was seventeen when he made his first printed self-portrait, depicting himself as an isolated, screaming head (Hofmaier 2). His last, showing a man in late middle age wearing a beret, came sixty two years later. In the intervening forty-five years he returned to his own likeness as a subject no fewer than thirty-five times, rivalling Rembrandt as possibly greatest self-portraitist in the history of printmaking. All three techniques - drypoint, lithography and woodcut - were used at various times, but it was the powerful immediacy of drypoint - whereby the image is scratched directly into the metal plate - that suited his purposes best.

Selbstbildnis mit steifem Hut ('Self-Portrait with Bowler Hat') is arguably his greatest achievement as a printmaker and portraitist. Not unlike Rembrandt, who frequently made sweeping changes to his large drypoints, Beckmann radically revised the plate by adding and burnishing out entire elements of the composition. The result is a dark, heavily worked and powerful image.

Superficially Beckmann appears a dandy, urbane and seemingly confident - yet his eyes are full of doubt and unease. As well as a character study, this Selbstbildnis encapsulates the contradictions and uncertainties of the Weimar Republic; the haunting memories, the sense of foreboding, the decadence, defiance and elegance. Together with Erich Heckel's woodcut Männerbildnis (1919), Beckmann's Selbstbildnis mit steifem Hut is one of the most poignant images of the inter-war years, and one of the great self-portraits of the 20th century.

The present very fine impression comes from The Neuerburg Collection, part of which was offered in a landmark sale at Christie's New York in November 1988. Initiated by the industrialist Heinrich Neuerburg (1880-1956), and enhanced by his son Dr. Walter Neuerburg (1912-1986), the collection held many important prints by masters of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was, however, most noted for its exceptional German Expressionist prints.

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