Lot 21
  • 21

Max Beckmann

700,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
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  • Max Beckmann
  • signed Beckmann and dated F.28 (lower right)
  • white and coloured chalk on black painted paper
  • 108.5 by 50.5cm.
  • 42 3/4 by 19 7/8 in.


Estate of the artist
Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York
Stanley J. Seeger, USA (acquired from the above in October 1959. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 8th May 2001, lot 13)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Basel, Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann, 1930, no. 120
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Max Beckmann, 1930, no. 91
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Max Beckmann - Gemälde und Graphik 1906 bis 1930, 1931, no. 36
Berlin, Preussische Akademie der Künste, Frühjahrs-Ausstellung 1931, 1931, no. 37
Munich, Galerie J.B. Neumann und Günther Franke, Fünfundsiebzigste Ausstellung des Graphischen Kabinetts - Sommer-Ausstellung, 1931, no. 9
Königsberg, Städtische Kunsthalle, Deutscher Künstlerbund - Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, 1932, no. 24
Princeton, The Art Museum, Princeton University, The Stanley J. Seeger Jr. Collection, 1961, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue
Austin, University Art Museum, The University of Texas, Not So Long Ago. Art of the 1920s in Europe and America, 1972, illustrated in the catalogue
Bielefeld, Kunsthalle; Tübingen, Kunsthalle & Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Max Beckmann, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, 1903-1950, 1977-78, no. 124, illustrated in the catalogue
Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Max Beckmann, Frankfurt 1915-1933, 1983-84, no. 159, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Cologne, Josef Haubrich Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann, 1984, no. 86, illustrated in the catalogue
Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Max Beckmann, Die Nacht, 1997, no. 78, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Max Beckmann, un peintre dans l'histoire, 2002-03, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann. Die Aquarelle und Pastelle, 2006, no. 36, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Lothar-Günther Buchheim, Max Beckmann, Feldafing, 1959, no. 99, illustrated in a photograph of the artist's studio p. 195
Erhard & Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, Bern, 1976, vol. I, p. 255, mentioned under no. 369
Stadtnächte - Der Zeichner und Grafiker Max Beckmann (exhibition catalogue), Hamburger Kunstverein, Hamburg, 1980, p. 143
Jeannot Simmen, Vertigo - Schwindel der modernen Kunst, Munich, 1990, no. 69, illustrated
Reinhard Spieler, Max Beckmann. Der Weg zum Mythos, Cologne, 1994, illustrated p. 92
Klaus Gallwitz (ed.), Max Beckmann, Briefe, Munich & Zurich, 1994, vol. II, p. 416
Ortrud Westheider, Die Farbe Schwarz in der Malerei Max Beckmanns, Berlin, 1995, no. 38, illustrated
Siegfried Gohr, Selbstgespräche - Aquarelle und Pastelle von Max Beckmann, Essen, 2000-01, illustrated in colour p. 28
Stephan Reimertz, Max Beckmann, Biographie, Munich, 2003, pp. 260 & 283
Olaf Peters, Vom schwarzen Seiltänzer: Max Beckmann zwischen Weimarer Republik und Exil, Berlin, 2005, no. 30, illustrated p. 78


Executed on black painted paper, laid down on paper, which is on a stretcher. There are some repaired tears, the largest of which are a diagonal tear running from the centre of the right edge towards the woman's leg, another diagonal tear towards the top of the right edge and another tear towards the bottom of the right edge, and some further tears and losses around the edges. The medium is in good condition although the white chalk may be slightly rubbed in places. Otherwise this work is in good condition. Colours: In comparison to the printed catalogue illustration, the tonality is overall less red, and the colours are stronger and more pronounced in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

One of Beckmann's most powerful and arresting works on paper, Begegnung in der Nacht was executed in Frankfurt, where the artist lived between 1915 and 1933. During these years, the artist explored themes of struggle and frustration in many of his works, no doubt influenced by the tension extant during the aftermath of the First World War. An aesthete with pan-European sophistication, Beckmann grew increasingly dissatisfied with the political situation prevalent in central Europe at that time. While his compositions are often enigmatic, rather than openly critical, as in the works of his contemporaries George Grosz and Otto Dix, this sense of dissatisfaction is certainly reflected in the sarcastic, decadent tone that so powerfully dominates in this work.


In the present work, Beckmann clearly expresses these themes of frustration and injustice through the iconography of opposition. Two central characters are presented as direct contrasts to each other: the dark, upright, tuxedo-clad gentleman, strongly reminiscent of the artist's self-portraits, looks on untroubled as the semi-nude woman, hanged by her ankles, is unable to see her captor. Beckmann's message and symbolism, although cryptic, can perhaps be deciphered by considering artist's earlier work, Die Nacht (The Night), painted in 1918-19 (fig. 1). Although not as markedly violent as the earlier composition, Begegnung in der Nacht alludes to similar themes of alienation and inequality. Writing about the significance of violence and the night in Beckmann's work, Carla Schulz-Hoffmann has proposed: 'This is not a parable about a possible redemption, but about human contingency and the lack of freedom in which the night is a symbol of the hell of humanity. There is no escape from this closed system, and neither perpetrators nor victims are really guilty' (C. Schulz-Hoffmann, Max Beckmann, Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Saint Louis Art Museum, 1984, p. 25).


Begegnung in der Nacht is one of Beckmann's most successful works on paper of this period. With a fluid use of line and shadow, the artist has created a composition that relates directly to the pictorial intentions of his oils of this period. Like many other paintings and drawings of this era, Beckmann pays particular attention to the delineation of the figures' hands and the individualization of the shackled woman's face. Furthermore, the figures in this drawing are compacted into a tight, shallow space, giving little regard to perspective and forcing the viewer to concentrate on the powerful image. This condensed treatment of space lends the two figures a certain monumentality, while at the same time imbuing the composition with an atmosphere of anxiety and tension. The artist himself evidently held this work in high esteem, as he kept it in his studio (fig. 2). After Beckmann's death, the Catherine Viviano Gallery, who handled his estate, sold this work to the celebrated collector Stanley J. Seeger, in whose collection it remained for over forty years, during which time it was extensively exhibited.




Fig. 1, Max Beckmann, Die Nacht, 1918-19, oil on canvas, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
Fig. 2, A veiw of Beckmann's New York studio, showing the present work on the right and the 1925 painting Galleria Umberto on the left.