Max becomes Beckmann

It began in Brunswick


[Translate to English:]

I believe that I will achieve everything I want - everything.
Max Beckmann, Braunschweig, 1903

Max Beckmann (Leipzig 1884 - 1950 New York) is one of the most important international artists of modernism. As  painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor and writer, he used his work to explore "the reality that forms the actual mystery of existence" in a tremendously intense and sensual way . His life was shaped by two wars, dictatorship and exile.

The exhibition unlocks a chapter that is crucial to the life and work of this monumental  artist but has heretofore been little known:


"Only I do not know for sure whether I will always be happy about it."

The exhibition shows how Max Beckmann, as an adolescent school dropout in Braunschweig, made himself into an artist by battling against enormous resistance from 1898 on. It traces how he fought for his right to study at the Grand Ducal Saxon School of Art in Weimar in 1900 and to spend time in Paris in 1903 before eventually settling as a freelance artist in Berlin in 1904.

The exhibition presents 100 works of all genres from renowned museums and private collections and divides them into five chapters: ORIGIN, VOCATION, DEPARTURE, LOVE and INSPIRATION.

The young Max Beckmann also found inspiration in the world of literature, theater and music. Working in close cooperation with the museum, the Staatstheater Braunschweig illuminates this side of the story in a multifaceted program.

Max Beckmann was born in Leipzig but made a point of saying that  he was "raised in Braunschweig, to which I also trace my origins ". His parents were natives of the region and were descended from families of craftsmen and farmers. Between 1895 and 1900 Max lived in Braunschweig and returned there from time to time as a budding artist, for example in 1903, in the interim between the end of his art studies and his departure for Paris.

He visited Braunschweig again on his honeymoon in 1906 at the beginning of his career and after the death of his mother, which distressed him greatly. It marked the definitive end of his youth. In his mature oeuvre, he gave artistic tribute to his parents in the portrait "The Miller and His Wife", painted shortly before his emigration, and also in the late triptych "The Beginning".

Max Beckmann's earliest development becomes clear in its familial, social, and artistic contexts. The exhibition provides new insights into details like his initial artistic collaboration with his fiancée and future wife Minna Tube.The poignant portrait of his mother owes much to her initiative and preparatory work.

Our retrospective shines a new light on the lifelong inspiration Max Beckmann derived from the Old Masters, which began at the Herzogliches Museum (now the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum) in Braunschweig, where he studied works by Palma Vecchio, Veronese, Rubens, and Rembrandt, especially the latter's famous late work "Family Portrait," which Beckmann particularly admired.

The exhibition continues in the picture gallery and illustrates how these masters inspired the youthful artist. Here the enquiring and challenging manner in which he viewed the works of his predecessors can be comprehended.

Current artistic works by Serena Ferrario (*1986) and Kaspar Toggenburger (*1960), displayed in the foyer of the gallery, mirror his approach to the Old Masters and to his early self-portrayal in a creative manner.

Supporters and Sponsors


Prof. Dr. Thomas Döring

Head of Graphics Collection

Email t.doering@3landesmuseen.de
Phone +49 531 1225 - 2409
Fax +49 531 1225 - 2408

Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
Museumstr. 1
38100 Braunschweig