MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
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MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)

Un bar à Paris

MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
Un bar à Paris
signed, dated and inscribed 'Beckmann P. 39' (lower right)
oil on canvas
31 3/4 x 23 1/2 in. (80.7 x 59.8 cm.)
Painted in Paris in 1939
Stephan Lackner, Santa Barbara, by whom acquired directly from the artist in 1939.
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia, by whom acquired from the above.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner on 17 August 1966.
D. Bear, 'Max Beckmann Memorial Show Reveals Great Force, Lasting Power of German Artist', in Santa Barbara News-Press, Santa Barbara, 28 January 1951.
C.S. Kessler, 'Santa Barbara: Max Beckmann', in Arts, vol. 34, no. 2, New York, November 1959, p. 21 (titled 'Claridge Bar').
S. Lackner, 'Max Beckmann: Memories of a Friendship', in Arts Yearbook 4, New York, 1961, p. 121 (illustrated).
R.N. Ketterer, ed., Lagerkatalog III, Campione d’Italia, 1966, no. 18, n.p. (illustrated n.p.; titled 'Bar Ritz (auch Claridge Bar')).
S. Lackner, Max Beckmann: Memories of a Friendship, Florida, 1969.
E. & B. Göpel, eds., Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, no. 528, p. 331 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 186).
J. Schütt, ed., Beckmann & America, exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 2012, p.192 (illustrated fig. 111).
F. Dieter & M. Kaldewei Kulturstiftung, Werkverzeichnis Max Beckmann - Catalogue Raisonné der Gemälde, no. 528 (accessed 2022).
Oakland, California, The Mills College Art Gallery, Max Beckmann, July - August 1950, no. 9, n.p. (titled 'Claridge Bar, London').
Santa Barbara, California, Museum of Art, Max Beckmann Memorial Exhibition, January - February 1951 (no cat.).
Santa Barbara, California, Museum of Art, Max Beckmann, May - June 1955, no. 40, n.p. (titled 'Ritz Bar Paris'); this exhibition later travelled to San Francisco, Museum of Art, July - August 1955; and Pasadena, Art Institute, October - November 1955.
Santa Barbara, California, University Art Gallery, Max Beckmann, September - October 1959, no. 13.
Downey, California, Museum of Art, Max Beckmann: Oils, Watercolors, Lithographs, January - February 1960, no. 19.
Bremen, Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann: Gemälde und Aquarelle der Sammlung Stephan Lackner, USA, Gemälde Handzeichnungen und Druckgraphik aus dem Besitz der Kunsthalle Bremen, September - October 1966, no. 33, p. 94 (illustrated p. 95; titled 'Bar in Paris/Claridge Bar'); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Akademie der Künste, November 1966 - January 1967; Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein, January - March 1967; Vienna, Wiener Sezession, March - May 1967; Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt Linz Wolfgang Gurlitt-Museum, May - July 1987; and Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, August - September 1967.
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Arte Alemán en Venezuela, June 1979, no. 26, n.p. (illustrated p. 24; titled 'Ritz Bar').

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.


Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Auction


Executed in a rich palette of complementary blues and golds, Max Beckmann’s Un bar à Paris emerged during the opening months of 1939, at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty in the artist’s life. While Beckmann painted a number of atmospheric compositions of bars and cafés across the course of his career, those he created during the late 1930s and 40s carry a particular tenderness and intimacy rooted in his own personal experiences of life in exile and isolation during the political turmoil and conflict of these years. The artist and his wife Mathilde, affectionately known as ‘Quappi’, had fled Germany in July 1937 upon hearing Hitler’s furious attack on modern art at the opening of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, in which he threatened avant-garde artists with either imprisonment or castration. Shortly thereafter, Beckmann and his wife packed their bags and left for Amsterdam. While the Dutch city offered a welcome refuge for the couple, it was only ever intended as a temporary stop on the Beckmanns’ journey, an interim base before they moved to Paris.

Beckmann had first visited the French capital as a young art student, an experience which left an indelible impression on his artistic imagination. Through the 1920s Beckmann’s visits to the city became more frequent as he attempted to accelerate his career, meeting dealers and critics and immersing himself in the contemporary art scene, leading him to make the city his base for several years between 1929 and 1932. During the difficult years of the late 1930s Paris remained home to a number of Beckmann’s close supporters and patrons, including Käthe von Porada and Stephan Lackner, the first owner of Un bar à Paris. Indeed, in 1938 Lackner had extended an important financial lifeline to the artist, agreeing to purchase two of Beckmann’s paintings every month in order to alleviate some of the pressures of his economic situation in exile. This circle of trusted confidants continued to champion his work, staging temporary exhibitions in their homes, and promoting him to fellow collectors and dealers in the city, and their unwavering support encouraged Beckmann to join them in Paris.

While awaiting the appropriate paperwork, Beckmann and Quappi rented an apartment on the Rue Massenet, where they stayed between October 1938 and June 1939. Writing to the gallerist I. B. Neumann in March of 1939, Beckmann described the promise he felt lay in Paris, even as war grew ever more likely: ‘Here in Paris a large group of people are interested in me and I think it not out of question that I can gain some influence. Although everything takes time and naturally above all international peace. Well, the most important thing is in any case, that one lives and continues to bring this spooky world to reality in a painting in as intensive a manner as possible. The single true reality that there is. – To be more real than life is probably the farthest extreme that a man can reach and I am exercising this stimulating profession daily’ (quoted in T. Bezzola and C. Homburg, eds., Max Beckmann and Paris, exh. cat., Saint Louis, 1998, p. 173).

It is most likely during this period that the artist began Un bar à Paris, a fleeting glimpse into the glamorous café society and hotel bars that Beckmann enjoyed during his time in the city. Compositions portraying different aspects of the Parisian cityscape were a frequent feature of Beckmann’s oeuvre during these years, from well-known monuments such as the Sacré-Coeur to smaller, everyday sights from the artist’s wanderings through the city streets. Though he occasionally sketched on such journeys, these works were largely created from memory, executed on the artist’s return to the studio, sometimes weeks or months later.

In many ways, these compositions suggest a view of Paris as seen by a flâneur, rambling through the city collecting impressions – the paintings are at once rooted in the distinct landscape and life of Paris and at the same time primarily observational, the artist appearing separate from the activities and scenes depicted. Such is the case in Un bar à Paris, which offers a view through a half-open window into the golden-hued, vaulted interior of the elegant bar, as a fashionable couple make their way to their seats, passing the array of empty tables that line the edge of the long room. The dramatic architecture is in some ways reminiscent of the vaulted arcades surrounding the Louvre, though Beckmann does not offer us any further information about the location than the simple "BAR" sign.

For Beckmann, the barroom was a place of companionship and friendly human interaction, a place to socialise and enjoy a connection to others. As such, the emptiness of the space in Un bar à Paris is an unusual choice. However, there is a distinct sense of anticipation to the scene, an impression that Beckmann has captured a moment of quiet, outside of the usual hustle and bustle of the lively atmosphere of the establishment. Indeed, the charged atmosphere suggests that soon the empty tables will all be occupied by well-dressed revellers, filling the space with noise, heat and smoke.

To the right of the composition, another couple can be spotted through the wooden slats of the shutters of the doorway, the woman’s scarlet headpiece offering a flash of colour that draws the eye. Holding hands and gazing into one another’s eyes, the couple seem completely absorbed in a moment of private intimacy, a feeling enhanced by the compact space in which they find themselves. Though the nature of their interaction remains a mystery, Beckmann captures the intensity of the moment through the smallest of details, celebrating the play of life and small human dramas that continue to occur even during times of extreme unrest and uncertainty.

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