Max Beckmann's magical world of theater


Death on the stage

The star of the exhibition is Beckmann's triptych, "Actor." It illustrates Beckmann's metaphor of "world theater." The king, who commits suicide on stage, has Beckmann's own facial expressions. It's a grandiose mélange of color, form and noise.


Boss of the 'Circus Beckmann'

Max Beckmann enjoyed depicting himself as a director and stage hand. As the exhibition "World Theater" in Bremen shows, he lived for the stage. This is also apparent in his self-portrait from 1921, titled "The Barker."


Carnival with Quappi

This picture is a declaration of love. After his divorce, Beckmann married the 20-year-old Mathilde von Kaulbach, known as "Quappi." In 1925, Beckmann was appointed to the Kunstschule of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, where the "Double-Portrait Max Beckmann and Quappi, Carnival" was painted. He wrote to his wife, "Our marriage picture will be beautiful. I always think of you and our picture."


Dancer as a symbol of political isolation?

A dancer practices the splits, struggling for balance. In Beckmann's bronze statue, "Dancer," from 1935, art experts see a counter-model of the Nazis' image of the ideal man. Does the work reflect the artistic and political isolation of the artist, whom the Nazis described as "degenerate"?


It's showtime!

A leg is lifted high while the music plays and the magician does magic tricks on the stage. Beckmann was enthusiastic about scenes like these. Here, he plays with perspective. Branded by the Nazis as a "degenerate artist," Beckmann fled to Amsterdam in 1937. There, he worked with abstract and figurative elements. This piece was painted in 1942.


A dangerous dance

Sad clowns, artists, actors and circus folk populate Beckmann's paintings and images. They often seem to walk on the edge of the abyss, like the pair of dancers depicted in this painting, title "Apache Dance." Painted in 1938, it's a commentary on the tense climate in Europe one year before the outbreak of the Second World War.

German painter Max Beckmann was enthusiastic about life on the stage and behind the scenes, often painting acrobats, clowns and actors. The Kunsthalle Bremen is assembling these works in the exhibition "World Theater."