Max Beckmann (1884-1950) born in Leipzig, was a German painter and sculptor who was associated with a movement called the New Objectivity, an offshoot of Expressionism, which shunned its emotionalism. Beckmann was profoundly affected by his service as a medical orderly in WWI, which is reflected in his art. During the Weimar Republic, Beckmann was highly regarded and quite successful; however, his fate changed with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, who hated modern art. Beckmann soon became known as a “cultural Bolshevik” and lost his job at the Art School in Frankfurt. The Nazis confiscated over 500 of his works from German museums and displayed them in a Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich. Beckmann is known for his many self-portraits and compositions which are similar to Medieval stained glass. In addition to Beckmann liking cats, his inclusion of cats in many of his paintings can be attributed to their symbolism as representative of women’s licentiousness as well as their domesticity. Furthermore, the cat poses as an extension of Beckmann’s interest in mysticism and the metaphysical. The cat Titti, used in Synagogue, represents Sphinx-like wisdom and aloofness. After WWII, Beckmann immigrated to the US and settled in St. Louis, taking a job at the Washington University there. Many of his works have been donated to the Saint Louis Art Museum. Later, he moved to New York where he was given a professorship at the Art School of New York’s Brooklyn Museum. Beckmann died of a heart attack while on the way to see an exhibition of one of his paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mathilde von Kaulbach