Max Beckmann began his artistic career as a member of the Expressionist movement. After his experience as a doctor during the First World War and as a result of a nervous breakdown, he gave up his profession to paint dramatic pictures.
After the War the social and economic situations improved. His style developed to become gentler and more natural. In this portrait, which belongs to the Museum’s collection, he painted his second wife, Matilde von Kaulbach, known as Quappi. She is shown full face, in front of an architectural background. She sits looking relaxed, with a faint smile on her face. The painter modified the original smile, which was wider, using this one which is more restrained, because of his concern about the Nazis who had fired him from his job as a teacher at the Frankfurt academy because they considered his paintings to be degenerate. After living almost clandestinely in Berlin, they left for the United States, where they finally settled in New York.
Beckmann portrays the sitter as a modern, self-assured woman, both in her clothing and by the fact that she is holding a cigarette in her right hand, a symbol of modernity for women in those days. The painter has handled her beautiful green, almost transparent eyes magnificently.
This is one of the most outstanding early 20th-century paintings in the collection. Look at her long hands. It is as if the artists wants to tell us, like Picasso that, "a woman’s hands are a prodigy of action and polyvalence".
(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
Photo: Max Beckmann in front of Departure at the Museum of Modern Art, 1947. Source: Max Beckmann Archive, Munich
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