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Details
Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Stilleben mit Paletten
signed, dated and inscribed 'Beckmann A 44' (lower center)
oil on canvas
21¾ x 37½ in. (55.3 x 95.2 cm.)
painted in Amsterdam, 1944
Provenance
Dr. Helmuth Lütjens (Paul Cassirer & Co.), Amsterdam (1945).
Richard Feigen Gallery, Chicago (circa 1959).
Mr. and Mrs. Eugene V. Klein, Beverly Hills (by 1976); sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1983, lot 81.
Private collection, Berlin (acquired at the above sale).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 24 June 1997, lot 32.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.
Literature
The Artist's Handlist, Amsterdam, 1944, no. 26.
B. Reifenberg and W. Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich, 1949, p. 79, no. 559.
Max Beckmann, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1951, p. 27, no. 68.
F.W. Fischer, Max Beckmann: Symbol und Weltbild, Munich, 1972, p. 118.
E. and B. Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, Bern, 1976, vol. I, p. 408, no. 681 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 247).
Exhibited
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Max Beckmann, 1950, no. 83.
Munich, Haus der Kunst and Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Max Beckmann zum Gedächtnis, June-September 1951, p. 53, no. 158.
Kunsthaus Zürich, Max Beckmann, November 1955-January 1956, p. 34, no. 123.
Kunsthalle Basel, Max Beckmann, January-February 1956, p. 34, no. 111.
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Max Beckmann, March-May 1956, no. 94.
Chicago, Richard Feigen Gallery, Important Recent Acquisitions, January 1960, p. 2, no. 2 (illustrated).
Aarau, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Das Gedächtnis der Malerei, August-November 2000, p. 418 (illustrated in color, pp. 2 and 136).

Lot Essay

The cramped space of the present work hosts a compendium of Beckmann's wartime imagery. The four palettes of the work's title, the artist's fundamental tool, are arrayed across the center of the composition. To the left, a bottle bearing illegible script but suggestive of happy, social times; to the right, a bust, its heavy brow and strong jaw identify it as Beckmann's sculptural self-portrait, modelled in 1936. Between these upright forms are two books--to combat bouts of insomnia, Beckmann read heavily at this time--and what appears to be a page of sheet music. And, at the heart of the composition, stands a flickering candle, a necessity due to wartime privation for sure, but also, iconographically, a symbol of truth and virtue on one hand, and a pungent memento mori on the other.

Mortality was much on the artist's mind. As Beckmann worked on Stilleben mit Paletten in Amsterdam in October 1944, he anxiously awaited the advancing Allied armies that had made landfall in Normandy the preceding June. The Allies advance, however, further complicated Beckmann's situation. He feared that Dutch nationalists, emboldened by the retreat of the German armies, would victimise any Germans in their midst. And thus, notwithstanding his position as a staunch opponent of the Nazi regime, Beckmann went into hiding in September 1944. His protector was Dr. Helmuth Lütjens, a German national who had assumed Dutch nationality and had run the Amsterdam branch of Paul Cassirer's gallery from 1923, and who was the first owner of the present work. Jill Lloyd takes up the story: "In February 1943, Göpel became aware of a threat to confiscate Beckmann's paintings, and he asked Lütjens to hide a number of works from the artist's studio in his house on the Keizersgracht. In this sense, Beckmann's paintings also became 'divers,' and a friendship grew up between the artist and the cultured, reserved man whom Beckmann referred to as 'Knight L' in his diary. During the winter of 1944-1945 they spent their Friday mornings together, viewing Beckmann's paintings from the hidden store" (Max Beckmann, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2003, p. 205).

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