mona lisa smileLove reading analysis of famous paintings? 

Explore 250 top art paintings with the Famous Paintings ebook - and discover highlights in U.S. and European art museumsWith sortable data and introductory art essays. 

download-250-paintings-ebook

Then try smiling like that. 

 

Famous Paintings Reviewed

Famous Painters: Max Beckmann

Posted by Susan Benford

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Rembrandt (1606-1669) and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), are three famous painters known for creating numerous self-portraits over their entire lifetimes.

Over the course of Beckmann's, he painted forty self-portraits, portraying himself in roles max beckmann selfportrait florence resized 600including clown, medical attendant, circus director, king and acrobat, and in garb ranging from prisoner wear to formal evening wear.  

It is fitting that the earliest surviving painting by Max Beckmann is a self-portrait (left). 

Max Beckmann.  Self-Portrait, Florence, 1907.  Oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 35 1/2". Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg.   

Born into a wealthy family in Leipzig, Beckmann became well-versed in early Renaissance painters from the Netherlands and Germany as well as famous Dutch painters of the 17th century.  In 1903 he settled in Berlin, a hub for Art Nouveau and German Impressionism, and began creating murals and depicting contemporary disasters such as The Sinking of the Titanic.  

In that work, lifeboats are overflowing with hordes of desperate passengers mashed together while in the distance, the Titanic remains upright.  The water teems with flailing arms and legs, and dead bodies.  Max Beckmann Titanic resized 600Although Beckmann had no personal connection to the sinking of the Titanic - it is believed he painted this rendition from newspaper photographs - he clearly was influenced by grand history paintings like Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

Max Beckmann.  The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912-13.  Oil on canvas, 8' 8" x 10' 10".  St. Louis Museum of Art. 

Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the St. Louis Museum of Art, comments that in The Sinking of the Titanic

"(Beckmann) is trying to project himself in the German art world as an ambitious, grand painter of contemporary life." 

Beckmann served in the medical corps in the trenches of Flanders during World War I, after which he suffered Beckmann Self Portrait Red Scarf resized 600major depression and hallucinations. He abandoned his earlier academic, classical style of painting and adopted a more expressive style, focusing most frequently on themes of the inner self and the mysteries of life.  This lifelong search for internal reality appears in many Max Beckmann paintings, like Self-Portrait with Red Scarf of 1917.  His post-war anxiety and angst is palpable, even in the security of his studio.  

Max Beckmann.  Self-Portrait with a Red Scarf, 1917.  Oil on canvas, 31" x 24".  Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart.

By 1927, Max Beckmann was recognized as one of the leading German painters.  The government honored him, and awarded him a prestigous teaching position in Frankfurt.  Beckmann wrote an essay titled, "The Artist in the State", which articulated his belief that artists belonged to the social elite and should be included in the leadership of the Weimar Republic.  

That confidence dominates his Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, in which Beckmann's stripped down, max beckmann self portrait in tuxedodetail-less image fills the frame.  

Color has been stripped down, too, with backlighting emphasizing his shadowy head and hand. Beckmann stares directly at the viewer in a conflicted image: is he showing his discomfort with German politics? Is he exuding arrogance or confidence? Is his stance a swagger or not?

Max Beckmann.  Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927.  Oil on canvas, 55 1/2" x 37 3/4".  Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA

It became clear that Hitler didn't believe modern artists belonged in Germany, let alone in its ruling class.

After Hitler became chancellor in 1933, he vowed to excise all modern art in Germany 590 Max Beckmann paintings were confiscated from German art museums (including Self-Portrait with a Red Scarf), he was fired from his teaching post, and when the Degenerate Art Show opened in Munich, with ten Max Beckmann paintings, he and his wife fled Germany for Amsterdam.

Self-Portrait in Tuxedo was seized by the Nazis and sold abroad in 1937.

After a decade of hiding from the Nazis, Beckmann accepted a teaching post at Washington University in St. Louis, living in the United States for the rest of his life.

In the thirties and forties, Beckmann continued to shun all labels describing his work- for instance, he never considered himself a disciple of Expressionism, widespread in 1920s Germany - and continued his figurative painting which often used, like the Expressionists, bold colors and distorted shapes. 

In the last twenty years of his life, Beckmann created nine triptyches, inspired by those of Hieronymus Bosch. Departure, one of the best known, is laden with allegory and symbolism echoing his early study of the Old Masters. max beckmann departure

Max Beckmann. Departure, 1932-35. Side panels 7' 3/4" x 39 1/4", center panel 7' 3/4" x 45 3/8".  Oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Alfred Barr, the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, described Departure as

an allegory of the triumphal voyage of the modern spirit through and beyond the agony of the modern world. 

The side panels show life as an endless misery of torture, sadism and agony.  Although Beckmann claimed to be apolitical, the left panel surely references the rise of dictatorship that prompted widespread emigration from Germany.  Beckmann commented about Departure:

On the right wing you can see yourself trying to find your way in the darkness, lighting the hall and staircase with a miserable lamp dragging along tied to you as part of yourself, the corpse of your memories, of your wrongs, of your failures, the murder everyone commits at some time of his life - you can never free yourself of your past, you have to carry the corpse while Life plays the drum.

The center panel, which Beckmann called The Homecoming, resolves this despair with its message of freedom.  According to him, "The King and Queen have freed themselves of the tortures of life - they have overcome them... Freedom is the one thing that matters - it is the departure, the new start."

Beckmann seldom spoke of the meaning of his paintings, believing that viewers' interpretations would be similar to his so he didn't need to provide a "key."  His description of Departure is rare - do you interpret it as he did? Let us know!

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: famous painters, Max Beckmann, Max Beckmann paintings

Join this Blog - (and add your thoughts!)

Feeling Lucky?

famous paintings cards

Good - because we're feeling generous!

Join this blog and earn a chance to win a FREE set of Masterpiece Cards (a $60 value). 

Enter Me to Win!

Famous Paintings ebook

This free ebook has a wealth of facts and articles about the 250 influential paintings in Masterpiece Cards.

Did we mention it's free? d0e42560-d745-43b3-8b2d-9ee2d3273b82

Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Botticelli, Primavera

Caillebotte, Gustave, The Floor Scrapers; The House Painters; Pont de l'Europe; Paris Street, Rainy Day; Fruit Displayed on a Stand

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers 

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Degas, The Bellilli Family, The Dance Class, In a Cafe (Absinthe Drinker)

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

El Greco, View of Toledo

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Ingres, Oedipus and the Sphinx

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

Leonardo, Lady with an Ermine

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Impression, Sunrise

Monet, Nymphaes, Le Pont de l'Europe

Monet Paintings at the Marmottan Monet Museum

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Peeters, Clara

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

van Gogh, Three Pairs of Shoes

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her Children, Self Portrait, Self-Portrait with Julie

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her ChildrenSelf PortraitSelf-Portrait with Julie

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Whistler, Whistler's Mother

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionExplore famous paintings at the Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Whitney Museum of American Art.  Don't miss these 10 famous paintings at the Whitney.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

10 Famous Paintings at the Prado. Don't miss a one of these.

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun.  Self-Portrait; Marie Antoinette and Her Children; Self-Portrait with Julie

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia

Coatlique 

Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors