MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
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MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
9 More
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more THE PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTOR
MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)


MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
bronze with dark brown patina
length: 28 1/2 in. (72.3 cm.)
Conceived circa 1935 and cast at a later date in an edition of 5
The artist's estate.
Galerie Pels Leusden, Berlin, 1996.
Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York, on consignment from the above circa 1990.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006.
E. & B. Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I., Bern, 1976, p. 600 (another version illustrated).
A. Franzke, "Max Beckmanns Skulpturen" in Max Beckmann, exh. cat., Joesph-Haubrich Kunsthalle, Cologne, 1984, pp. 98, 102, 106.
S. Lackner, "Max Beckmann" in German Expresionist Sculpture, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1984, p. 71.
B. Stabenow, "Metaphors of Helplessness: The Sculptures of Max Beckmann", in Max Beckmann Retrospective, exh. cat., 1984, The Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, p. 138 (another version illustrated fig. 1).
A. Franzke, Max Beckmann Skulpturen, Munich & Zurich, 1987, pp. 31, 36, 39, 42-43.
U. Harter, "Sculture" in Max Beckmann, exh. cat. Galleria Nazionale d'Art Moderna, Rome, 1996, pp. 153-154, 156, no. 6 (another version illustrated pp. 157-158).
New York, Richard. L Feigen & Co., Max Beckmann, The Eight Sculptures, February - May 2002.
London, Tate Modern, Max Beckmann, February - May 2003; this exhibition later travelled to New York, MoMa QNS, June - September 2003.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
A catalogue raisonné of the sculptures of Max Beckmann will be set up by Mayen Beckmann, Karin Schick and Francis Beatty, whom we thank for the information confirming the authenticity of this sculpture.

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Lot Essay

Throughout his career, German artist Max Beckmann conceived of himself as a painter and printmaker renowned for his powerful paintings of the human condition and enigmatic compositions representing the angst of 20th-century society. In the mid-1930s, he nevertheless began working three-dimensionally in clay and plaster, leaving behind eight sculptures - cast in bronze only after his death. The present works, Adam und Eva and Tanzerin are amongst those rare examples.

Following Beckmann’s dismissal from his teaching position in Frankfurt in 1933 by the unfavourable towards his artistic vision Nazi government, the artist relocated to Berlin, where he hoped to continue his work in the anonymity of the capital and away from the political turmoil of the early 1930s. The following year, at the age of fifty, the renowned painter began to sculpt in clay and plaster - exploring his interest in representing space and volume. Under the Nazi regime Beckmann was classified as a ‘degenerate’ artist and fled to Amsterdam in 1937. The last sculptures Beckmann made in Berlin, before he emigrated to Amsterdam, were Adam und Eva and Tanzerin. In 1948, whilst already settled in the United States, Beckmann shipped over the original plaster models he made in Berlin to St Louis at the request of Curt Valentin who was his dealer at the time.

In 1957, seven years after Beckmann’s death, the artist’s widow Mathilde Quappi Beckmann and Catherine Viviano, who represented the artist’s estate, authorised an edition of five bronzes to be cast from the original plaster model of the Tanzerin which Beckmann's widow kept on her desk in New York. Adam und Eva was cast the following year from a terracotta model - the only surviving terracotta from the artist's lifetime. The decision to cast an edition of five bronzes of Adam und Eva was inspired by a meeting of then young and aspiring art collector Stanley J. Seeger who was introduced to Mrs Beckmann by Catherine Viviano – an instrumental figure in Seeger’s journey as a collector - from whom Seeger acquired the first addition of the work, the present cast.

Although made in bronze, Adam und Eva and Tanzerin bear strong reference to key motifs reoccurring throughout Beckmann’s two-dimensional practice; the biblical and mythological stories and the great world of theatre and circus which Beckmann skilfully and wittedly utilised to comment on the modern society - exploring opposing nature of man and woman, battle of the sexes and continued misery of a human kind.

Adam und Eva depicts a seated man, endowed with self-portrait-like features, with his mouth open in a wail. Adam’s robust body seems to be immobilised by a snake which slowly coils around him. Against his breast he clutches a tiny, infantile Eve, freshly minted from his rib. There is an unsettling feeling of impending and inevitable calamity beaming from the sculpture. One can sense the hopelessness of Adam’s position and his internal suffering which he conveys with a silent scream, so much more telling for it is mute. Adam und Eva is a comment on a meditation on sin, free will, and the origins of human suffering. A serpent portending the impending disaster - the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, could speak to the artist’s own threatened circumstances in Nazi Germany which forced his exile.

The opposing nature of man and woman and the battle of the sexes are also at play in the present work. The sizable and robust figure of Adam juxtaposed with a small Eve could easily dictate the obvious dynamics, yet sardonically, the infantile Eve in her vulnerability has paralysed and immobilised Adam and later chained him to a burdensome domesticity.

Beckmann’s decision to present the Creation story in a literal way in the Adam und Eva bronze, by showing Eve being born out of Adam’s rib, lends itself to the Surreal reading of the work which Didier Ottinger speaks to in his essay, ‘Beckmann’s Lucid Somnambulism’. He describes Beckmann’s artistic practice of the 1930s as showing a tendency for Surrealist motifs, most apparent in his depiction of Adam and Eve painted in 1932 - a year which Ottinger views as marking an important turn in Beckmann’s work (D. Ottinger, ‘Beckmann’s Lucid Somnambulism,’ in S. Rainbird, ed., Max Beckmann, exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2002, p. 133). The irrationality of the story itself, aided by Beckmann’s literal interpretation of the subject, may be what makes the bronze so prone to its Surreal reading.

The Tanzerin, on the other hand, speaks to Beckmann’s great love of theatre and circus. Beckmann relocated a number of times throughout his lifetime, however at any location he settled in, the artist managed to find a circus group to follow. His wife Quappi recollects on Beckmann’s fascination and obsession with theatre: ‘Max liked to go to the circus and variety shows; we visited a great many performances, in Frankfurt, like in most of the other cities we lived […] The dexterity with which they [circus people] kept their balance during the most difficult acts made the acrobats for him a kind of higher being moving in space.’ (quoted in V.Borgmann, ‘Circus: Life as a High-Wire Act,’ in Max Beckmann: The World as a Stage, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bremen, Museum Barberini, Postdam, 2017, p. 150). In Berlin, the Circus Busch had a permanent building after 1895, where it hosted performances into the 1930s.

The Tanzerin, made in 1935, was most likely inspired by Beckmann’s frequent visits to the Circus Busch in Berlin which provided him with an endless repertoire of motifs to draw from. Beckmann recollects in his notes: ‘Hung around at Circus Busch for a long time in the blazing sun, it was nice and I saw a lot of my pictures--!’ (quoted in ibid, p. 150)

According to the Munich dealer Günther Franke, Beckmann’s wife, Quappi, posed as the model for the Tanzerin. Its stretched, balanced and grounded pose bears strong reference to the numerous stage performers and acrobats which populate Beckmann’s paintings. Stabenow claims the circus performers can be interpreted as ‘symbols of human existence seeking a restful balance but always being cast as the ridiculous plaything of an imposing and senses mechanism’ (C. Stabenow, ‘Metaphors of Helplessness: The Sculptures of Max Beckmann,’ in Max Beckmann Retrospective, exh. cat., The St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, 1984, p. 138). The Tanzerin therefore lends itself to Beckmann’s interpretation of the great world of theatre and circus as a metaphor for the balancing act that humans must master in life.

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