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Max Beckmann in California: Exile, Memory, and Renewal

  • Françoise Forster-Hahn
Chapter
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)

Abstract

When Max Beckmann confessed his vision about a future in America to Israel Ber Neumann in March 1939, he was in Paris on his last trip outside Amsterdam before war broke out in September of that year. The enforced isolation during his exile in Amsterdam only ended after 1945 with his first postwar journey to France in March–April 1947 and then, of course, more dramatically with the Beckmanns’ departure for the United States on August 29 of that year. Shortly before this departure, Beckmann had emphasized in a letter to Stephan Lackner his firm conviction that this “new transformation”—namely his moving to America—was part of “his life’s program,” his Lebensprogramm—as if he was to follow a predestined fate.1 Already in 1945, immediately after the end of the war, he had begun to study English, a language that he finally mastered more proficiently than he often made his audience believe. Beckmann had always wanted to emigrate to the United States, but it was only two years after World War II that he managed to obtain a visum. After a brief stay in New York, he arrived at the end of September 1947 in St. Louis to start his teaching job at Washington University. The discourse on Beckmann’s American years primarily focuses on St. Louis and New York. Little attention has been paid to his stay from June to August 1950 in California where the Beckmanns spent some vacation time in Carmel and where the artist taught summer school at Mills College (figure 1.1).

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Max Beckmann, Briefe, ed. Klaus Gallwitz, Uwe M. Schneede, and Stephan von Wiese, with the collaboration of Barbara Golz (Munich: Piper, 1993–1996), III: 177.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Vilém Flusser, The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism, trans. Kenneth Kronenberg, ed. Anke K. Finger (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 83.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde (Bern: Kornfeld & Cie., 1976), I: 479Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    H. W. Janson, “Max Beckmann in America,” Magazine of Art, 44.3 (March 1951): 89–92.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    A review in the New York Times of the exhibition at the Buchholz Gallery (October 1949) refers to Beginning as “an almost rollicking saga of childhood.” In their catalogue Erhard and Barbara Göpel give a very thorough account of the references in the diaries to the evolution of the painting, its earlier literature, and also advance their own reading of the triptych. The most engaged readings can be found in Charles S. Kessler, Max Beckmann’s Triptychs (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 77–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  8. Peter Beckmann, Max Beckmann: Leben und Werk (Stuttgart and Zürich: Belser, 1982), 13–17Google Scholar
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  10. Reinhard Spieler, Max Beckmann: Bildwelt und Weltbild in den Triptychen. Mit einem Beitrag von Hans Belting (Cologne: Dumont, 1998), 146–152Google Scholar
  11. 16.
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    Herwig Guratzsch, ed., Max Beckmann: Zeichnungen aus dem Nachlass Mathilde Q. Beckmann (Cologne: Wienand, 1998), 49–50Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    Georg Swarzenski, Europäisches Amerika. Sonderdruck aus der Frankfurter Zeitung (Frankfurt, 1927), 11-12. A copy of the privately printed booklet, dedicated to Max Beckmann, was in his library. See Peter Beckmann and Joachim Schaffer, eds., Die Bibliothek Max Beckmanns (Worms: Wernersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1992), 501.Google Scholar
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  15. 27.
    Erhard Göpel, “Gegenwart Max Beckmanns. Erinnerungen aus der holländischen Zeit,” Max Beckmann zum Gedächtnis 1884–1950. Internationale Kunstausstellungen München 1951 (Munich: Prestel, 1951), 7.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    For a biographical summary of Scheyer’s life and a catalogue of her collection, see Vivian Endicott Barnett, The Blue Four Collection At the Norton Simon Museum (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002)Google Scholar
  17. 39.
    Stephan Lackner, Max Beckmann (New York: Abrams, 1991), 112.Google Scholar
  18. 43.
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Copyright information

© Sabine Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick 2007

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  • Françoise Forster-Hahn

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