February 12,1884-December 27,1950...Germany
heart beats more for a raw, average, vulgar art, which doesn't live between sleepy fairy-tale moods and poetry but rather
concedes a direct entrance to the fearful, commonplace, splendid, and the average grotesque banality in life."
Beckmann was a German expressionist painter and graphic artist. He was born in Leipzig, East Germany, as the youngest
of three kids born to his father Carl, who was a grain merchant in a farming community. He studied at the Weimar School of
Art under Hans von Maree (later becoming a part of the Bauhaus school) in Weimar, Germany, as well
as schools in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. From the start Gothic art, El Greco, Paul CÚzanne, and Vincent van Gogh influenced him. Although he enjoyed making art, it was a serious occupation. “Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement. For transfiguration,
not for the sake of play. He
married Minna Tube in 1903, at the age of nineteen. He was a successful young artist at the beginning of World War I. Drafted
into the war, he went to the front lines in 1914 where he was a medical orderly, or corpsman, stationed in Prussia, Flanders,
and Strasbourg. "I went
across the fields to avoid the straight highways, along the firing lines where people were shooting at a small wooded hill,
which is now covered with wooden crosses and lines of graves instead of spring flowers. On my left the shooting had the sharp
explosion of the infantry artillery, on my right could be heard the sporadic cannon shots thundering from the front, and up
above the sky was clear and the sun bright, sharp above the whole space. It was so wonderful outside that even the wild senselessness
of this enormous death, whose music I hear again and again, could not disturb me from my great enjoyment!" The extreme war situation paired with the daily routine
of living with the visions of these mutilated soldiers put his mind into such a state of shock that after a year of service
he was discharged for depression and hallucinations. He did not paint again until 1917.
During the 1920’s he
was one of Germany’s leading artists. 1925 was a year of change in Beckmann life. He and Minna divorced, he married
Mathilde (Quappi) von Kaulbach, and he began to teach at an art school in Frankfort, a position he kept up until he left the
city in 1933.
Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933 and Hitler hated Modern art and detested the work of Beckmann.
Being branded with the title of a “degenerate,” Beckmann was forced to quit as professor, left Frankfurt for Berlin, but soon left Germany never to return. He left
with his wife to live with his sister in Amsterdam. There, he used a large tobacco storeroom as his studio, and remained there,
away from World War II, until he fled Europe completely for the comforts of the United States in 1947. He taught and worked
in New York for the last three years of his life. His last painting was Arganauton and he was starting work on his tenth triptych. Also in his lifetime, he painted eighty self-portraits,
more that any other artist I know of.