Arts of Europe


Beaulieu, 1947
Max Beckmann (Germany, 1884–1950)
Oil on canvas
31 3/4 x 39 1/2 inches
Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1950-2-1

Max Beckmann, who is sometimes labeled an expressionist, is in some respects closer to Pablo Picasso. Like Picasso, he created a personal mythology by combining contemporary experience—private and public—with ancient myth. One of the rare landscapes in Beckmann's mature work, Beaulieu was painted in Amsterdam, where he had lived since fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937. We know from his diaries that the canvas, though it is small, cost him considerable effort. He began the canvas on May 24, 1947, and did not complete it until June 13.

Beaulieu is one of three paintings commemorating a vacation Beckmann and his wife took in Nice. It is based on a day trip they made by car to the village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, east of Nice. The artist recalled that the outing was pleasant, yet characteristically he filled the scene with import. The picture includes glimpses of palms, an arcade, and the Mediterranean, but it provides little to indentify the village. It is as much still life as landscape, and it has many of the characteristics of Beckmann's more overtly allegorical or symbolic paintings: a dense, compacted space; deeply saturated colors and dark shadows that belie the dazzling light of the Riviera; bold, free brushwork; and the massing of objects in such a way that their shapes and positions are obscured. This treatment gives common objects an air of mystery. On the table in the foreground are a cat, a flask of wine, and a plate with two red fish. These common motifs in Beckmann's paintings may have represented for him the life of the senses.

Text by Marcel Franciscono, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

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