This spring, the Portland Museum of Art
will feature an exhibition of the graphic work of Max Beckmann, one of the most significant German artists of the modern era. Modernism and Masquerade: Max Beckmann (1884-1950), on view March 13 through May 23, 2010, will present approximately 40 prints from the Museums permanent collection and private collections. Focusing predominantly on Beckmanns portraits, this exhibition will provide important insights into the artist whose powerful approach to the human condition continues to move and inspire viewers. The exhibition also highlights Beckmanns treatment of scenes of both gaietythe circus and theatreand alienation.
The exhibition will juxtapose masterpieces such as Self-Portrait (1911), a haunting lithograph in which the artists face emerges from darkness; and Self-Portrait (1922), a later woodcut which has the look of a Roman bust. Other images, including Behind the Scenes (1921), with its frieze of clowns, musicians, and dancers, and Portrait of the Dancer Sent MAhesa (1921) will demonstrate Beckmanns fascination with theatre and masquerade. Images of individual women and men, such as Woman with a Candle (1920), which depicts his first wife Minna, will be coupled with claustrophobic scenes of jostling merrymakers. Full of drama and power, these images will form an impressive tribute to the multi-faceted Max Beckmann.
Though he began his career working in a conservative style, Max Beckmann was profoundly affected by the human drama that he witnessed as a medical orderly during World War I; his outlook on both life and art radically changed. His works began to overflow with relentless raw realism, expressive incisive power, and sharp social critique. The techniques of lithography, woodcut, and drypoint etching particularly suited his acute perceptions of society. When Hitler declared modern art degenerate in 1937, Beckmann fled to the Netherlands before eventually making his way to the United States where he taught art in St. Louis and New York, influencing generations of American artists.
Following in the tradition of the 2004 Portland Museum of Art exhibition German Expressionist Graphics from the Bradford Collection, this exhibition on Beckmann will similarly celebrate the gifts to the Museum by collectors David and Eva Bradford. Both psychologists, they are fascinated by the German Expressionists approach to social issues. The Bradfords have given the Museum approximately 100 prints from their collection of German Expressionist prints, which includes works by Lovis Corinth, Erich Heckel, Käthe Kollwitz, and George Grosz, among other German masters.