Max Beckmann Book Review

Max Beckmann by Reinhard Spieler (2014)
Max Beckmann by Reinhard Spieler (2014)

Beckmann by Reinhard Spieler provides an excellent overview of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.


Max Beckmann (1884-1950) was an amazing artist who experienced three period of fame: the pre-war period, the Weimar Republic years, and the late 1940s. After suffering a nervous breakdown during the First World War, Beckmann re-invents his art to reflect the new conditions. During the 1920s, he is often associated with other social critics of German society like Otto Dix and George Grosz. Beckmann’s art, however, reflects a deeper struggle with self. As a result, Beckmann continued to grow and develop even when the Weimar period came to an end.


With the rise of the Nazism, Beckmann falls out of favour and goes into seclusion. This isolation allows the artist to develop independently from the influences occurring elsewhere in the world.


With the end of World War Two, Beckmann moves to the United States and starts his finally period of success. Beckmann dies suddenly of a heart attack in December 1950 at the age of 66.


Over the years, I have read a lot of books on Beckmann and this 2011 work by Taschen is one of the best. Not only does it includes excellent quality reproductions, but it also reflects some of the latest research on Beckmann’s landscapes and still life portraits, works that represent almost half of his artistic output.


Beckman: the Still Lifes by Anna Heinze Kelly and Simon (Nov 2014); Max Beckmann: the Landscapes by Hans Belting &Berhard Mendes Burgi (2011)
Beckman: the Still Lifes by Anna Heinze & Simon Kelly (2014); Max Beckmann: the Landscapes by Hans Belting & Berhard Mendes Burgi (2011)

I would strongly recommend the following books: Max Beckman: the Still Lifes by Anna Heinze and Simon Kelly (Nov 2014);  and Max Beckmann: the Landscapes by Hans Belting and Berhard Mendes Burgi that was published in Dec 2011.


Spieler did his 1997 Ph.D. thesis on Beckmann’s triptychs and was recently appointed Director of the Sprengel Museum. Hopefully, Spieler will find times to write additional books on Beckmann’s self-portraits and his prints; two areas that have not been recently examined or published in English.


As an artist, I would hope someone would publish a book on his materials and techniques.  If you are interested in Beckmann then the above mention books are essentially readings.


Chris Erskine



Published by Chris Erskine

Inspired by architecture and landscapes, my art explores our relationship to place, memory and identity. As a mid career artist, my art practice includes: painting, murals, short films, and sound art.

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