Max Beckmann. The Still Lifes

5 September 2014 – 18 January 2015

Max Beckmann (1884-1950) Großes Fisch-Stillleben, 1927
Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Large Fish Still Life, 1927, Öl auf Leinwand, 96 x 140,5 cm, Hamburger Kunsthalle, © VG Bild-Kunst, 2013, Photo: Elke Walford

The many-faceted work of Max Beckmann (1884–1950) has been much researched and exhibited. The interest lay mainly in his figure paintings, self-portraits, mythological works or landscapes. The Hamburger Kunsthalle now devotes a comprehensive exhibition to Beckmann's fascinating still lifes – there has never been such a show until now, either in Germany or abroad.

The still life is present in all of Beckmann's artistic phases: from his earliest paintings through the war years to his time in Frankfurt, exile in Amsterdam and final years in the United States. In his compositions with withering flowers and extinguished candles Beckmann contrastes the immediate presence of life with its transience. But with the portrayal of fruits, shells or sea creatures he also celebrates the world in its abundance of colour, form and material.

At the same time the works do not convey the impression of spontaneity, but of well-considered stage sets. In his still lifes in particular Beckmann shapes his typically arranged and complex pictorial structures. Through the recurrent integration of landscapes, female nudes or self-portraits into his still lifes he brings about fascinating links to other genres and makes virtuosic play on various levels of reality.

The exhibition, which proceeds from two important works in the collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, will bring together around eighty paintings and several watercolours form the years 1906 to 1949. Important and also rarely shown works from public and private collections in Europe and the United States convey the impressive variety of this theme.

The lenders include Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden; Baltimore Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig; University of Minnesota/Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Saint Louis Art Museum; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC.

The exhibition will only be shown at the Hamburger Kunsthalle.

Curator: Dr Karin Schick

With the kind support of

  • Freunde der Kunsthalle e.V.
  • Hubertus Wald Stiftung
  • Artmentor
  • Commerzbank Stiftung
  • Max Beckmann (1884-1950) Großes Fisch-Stillleben, 1927