Max Beckmann

(1884 - 1950)
Max Beckmann Die Hölle (Hell): Die Strasse (The Street) 1919 © DACS 2017.


Beckmann was born in Leipzig. He studied in Weimar and Paris before settling in Berlin. At the outbreak of war he volunteered for the medical corps, but in 1915 suffered a nervous breakdown and was later discharged. After seeing the devastating effects of the war on the people of Germany and on the country itself, he began to question the values of the world. At about this time he moved away from Impressionism and adopted a more angular, expressionist style. Much of his work takes as its starting point political and social changes in Germany but ultimately his chief concerns were with spiritual values.

Glossary terms

  • Or Entartete Kunst. Term coined in the 1930s by the Nazis in Germany to ridicule modern art that didn't fit with Hitler's vision. Exhibitions of such works confiscated from German museums were staged and German artists branded with the term were banned from exhibiting their work.

  • A style that made an impact in the arts in the 1920s, particularly in Germany. Expressionists deliberately abandoned realistic representation techniques in favour of exaggerations and distortions of line and colour that were intended to carry far greater emotional impact.

  • A German art movement of the 1920s and early 1930s. It was partly a response to the experience of the First World War, with images containing elements of satire and social commentary. Stylistically it was sober and restrained, moving away from Expressionism to depictions based on close observation. Major figures associated with this style are George Grosz and Otto Dix.