Beckmann, Max (1884–1950) By Grimm, Dagmar
A painter, printmaker, sculptor, and writer, Max Beckmann achieved success at an early age. After studying art in Weimar and spending some months in Paris, Beckmann moved to Berlin in late 1904. Participating in an art competition there, he was awarded an opportunity to study in Florence. His prize-winning painting Young Men by the Sea, was bought by the Weimar Museum in 1905, an unprecedented occurrence for a twenty-year-old painter. Beckmann was admitted to the Berlin Secession in 1906 and took part in their annual exhibitions to favorable response. He worked in an academic style, painting melodramatic renditions of disasters such as the Messina earthquake in 1910, and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, as well as mythological or biblical scenes.
Until 1913, Beckmann’s work was not considered avant-garde. A controversy between him and Franz Marc in 1912 regarding the merits of contemporary art played out in the periodical Pan, placing Beckmann on the side of the conservative artistic establishment. Beckmann never wanted to be classified with the Expressionists, or to be a part of any group or trend. Yet his later work, in which he developed his personal, subjective, symbolic world, must be considered with the Expressionist movement.