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

Stilleben mit Rosen

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Stilleben mit Rosen
signed, dated and inscribed 'Beckmann F 27' (lower center)
oil on canvas
22 ¾ x 25 ¼ in. (57.6 x 64 cm.)
Painted in Frankfurt in June-July 1927
Günther Franke, Munich.
(probably) Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, by 1938.
The artist's handlist (annotated 'Frankfurt 1927: Stilleben mit Rosen (in Vase). 15. Juni begonnen, beendet 18. Juli').
B. von Erhard Göpel and B. Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, Bern, 1976, vol. I, p. 196, no. 270 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 96).
Berlin, Ausstellung der Berliner Secession, February-April 1928, no. 5.
Dusseldorf, Kunstpalast, Deutsche Kunst, May-October 1928, p. 14, no. 48 (titled Rosen).
Stuttgart, Kunsthaus Schaller, Max Beckmann, November 1928.
Braunschweiger Schloss, Gesellschaft der Freunde junger Kunst, Max Beckmann, January-February 1929.
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Twenty-Eighth Annual International Exhibition of Paintings, October-December 1929, no. 335.

Lot Essay

Beckmann often included objects from his own domestic surroundings in his still lifes. In Stilleben mit Rosen, painted in Frankfurt in 1927, he incorporated his own smoking pipe and the daily newspaper, the Frankfurter Zeitung, into the composition. The objects are isolated from each other and set starkly against a dominant black background. This articulates Beckmann’s claim that “it is, in fact, reality which forms the mystery of our existence” and that the primary aim of his work was “to get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting—to make the invisible visible through reality” (quoted in P. Selz, Max Beckmann, New York, 1996, p. 101).
Stilleben mit Rosen can be seen within the context of the long tradition of vanitas painting, where classic symbols—here the wilted leaves of the flowers, the pipe whose smoke dissipates and fades away, and the open door leading to black emptiness—are meant to remind the viewer of their own mortality, referring to existential questions of death, hollowness, the unknown and transcendence. In the aftermath of the war, Beckmann, like many other artists, abandoned the utopian visions of the Expressionists in favor of a more tangible and meaningful reality. As Beckmann put it, his heart was “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’ (quoted in Max Beckmann, Retrospective, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1985, p. 18).

(fig. 1) The artist in the late 1920s.

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