Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)
Morton D. May, St. Louis (acquired from the above in 1957)
St. Louis, University Art Gallery, Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May, 1960, no. 56
Denver Art Museum; Los Angeles, University of California; San Diego, Fine Art Gallery; San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum; Chicago, The Art Institute; Youngstown, Butler institute of American Art; Akron Institute; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May, 1960-62, no. 64
Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Morton D. May, 1967, no. 18
New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery; St. Louis, Art Museum, The Morton D. May Collection of 20th Century German Masters, 1970, no. 19
London, Marlborough Fine Art; New York, Marlborough Gallery, Max Beckmann, 1975, no. 15
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Berlin, Nationalgalerie; The Saint Louis Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Max Beckmann Retrospecktive, 1984-85, no. 67
Turin, Palazzo Bricherasio, L'Espressionismo, Presenza della pittura in Germania 1900-2000, 2001-02
Benno Reifenberg and Wilhelm Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich, 1949, no. 322
Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, no. 382, p. 261; vol. II, illustrated p. 128
Dating from 1933, Mädchen mit Hunden spielend was executed during Beckmann’s stay in Berlin, where he occupied a studio at 27 Hohenzollernstrasse. Between 1929 and 1932 the artist and his wife Quappi divided their time between Frankfurt, where Beckmann was teaching at the Städelschule, and Paris, where he spent his winters in the hope of establishing an international reputation. In late January 1933, Beckmann and his wife moved to Berlin, only days before the National Socialists seized power, and soon afterwards Beckmann was discharged from his teaching position in Frankfurt. The aim of his stay in Berlin was to lead a more secluded life away from the public eye in which he succeeded for several years. However when Beckmann’s art was included in the infamous ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Munich, the artist and his wife left Berlin for Amsterdam in July 1937.
By the time he painted the present work, Beckmann enjoyed considerable international reputation. In 1931, eight of his paintings were included in the landmark exhibition of German painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, curated by Alfred Barr. In 1932 Ludwig Justi, the director of the National Gallery in Berlin, dedicated an entire room of the museum to the permanent display of Beckmann’s art. The exhibition, however was dismantled the following year, under the pressure of the National Socialists. Despite his recognition in Europe and America, Beckmann’s existence as an avant-garde artist was becoming increasingly difficult in his own country. During his years in Berlin he developed a personal and highly charged symbolism, often using ancient Greek and Scandinavian mythology, which reflected the anxiety of his life in Berlin. This new subject matter is perhaps best exemplified by the monumental triptych Departure (see fig. 1) on which Beckmann worked in 1932-33, now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Although painted in Berlin, the idea for Mädchen mit Hunden spielend was conceived during the artist’s stay in Paris. According to Erhard and Barbara Göpel (op. cit., vol. I, p. 261), Beckmann observed two ladies playing with dogs at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. He sketched this scene on a postcard, which was also in the collection of Morton D. May, and painted the oil version after his move to Berlin. The carefree, joyful scene of two girls playing with dogs in an outdoor environment certainly appealed to the artist, who was fond of dogs, judging by photographs of himself, often with Quappi, with their pets (see fig. 2), as well as by several of his other paintings (see fig. 3). In style and spirit, the present work is closer to Beckmann’s works from his Paris period, as described by Peter Selz: "In Paris he found himself in the focal point of world art and this is where he now had to be. His development towards simplified form and belle peinture at that time has often been ascribed to his prolonged stay in Paris, where he now had his own studio on the Avenue des Marronniers" (Peter Selz, Max Beckmann (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1964-65, p. 50).
From 1957, the present work belonged to Morton D. May of St. Louis, who had by that time acquired one of the most important collections of Beckmann’s works. Peter Selz commented that "the impact that Beckmann had upon Morton May was decisive. It came through the great Beckmann exhibition of 1948 in the St. Louis museum and the personal friendship that quickly sprang up between them. From that time onward May’s purchases were a boost to Max’s morale and a boon to his economic situation. In fact, May’s devotion and collecting zeal rivalled, if it did not exceed, that of any European enthusiast, so that he became the principal patron of Beckmann’s later years" (ibid., p. 128).
Fig. 1, Max Beckmann, central panel of Departure, 1932-33, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Fig. 2, Max Beckmann with his dog, 1947
Fig. 3, Max Beckmann, Family Portrait of Heinrich George, 1935, oil on canvas, Nationalgalerie, Berlin
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