Lot 30
  • 30

Max Beckmann

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Max Beckmann
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 by 80cm.
  • 15 3/4 by 31 1/2 in.


Stephan Lackner, Santa Barbara, California (acquired from the artist in 1946. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 8th May 2002, lot 43)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


New York, Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin); Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Los Angeles, County Museum; San Francisco, Museum of Art; St. Louis, City Art Museum; Portland, Art Museum & Seattle, Art Museum, Exhibition of Recent Paintings by Max Beckmann, 1938, no. 2 (titled Nude Composition) or no. 3 (titled Morning)
Santa Barbara, Museum of Art; San Francisco, Museum of Art & Pasadena, Art Institute, Max Beckmann, 1955, no. 2 (titled Morning)
Santa Barbara, University Art Gallery, University of California, Max Beckmann, 1959, no. 14
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago & London, Tate Gallery, Max Beckmann: Paintings, Drawings and Graphic Work, 1964-65, no. 37 (no. 38 in London; titled Morning)
Frankfurt, Kunstverein, Max Beckmann, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, 1965, no. 36, illustrated in the catalogue
Bremen, Kunsthalle; Berlin, Akademie der Künste; Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein; Lucerne, Kunstmuseum; Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt Wolfgang Gurlitt-Museum & Vienna, Secession, Max Beckmann, Gemälde und Aquarelle der Sammlung Stephan Lackner, USA; Gemälde, Handzeichnungen und Druckgraphik aus dem Besitz der Kunsthalle Bremen, 1966-67, no. 8, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Morgen / Mädchen im Bett)


Stephan Lackner, Ich erinnere mich gut an Max Beckmann, Mainz, 1967, mentioned p. 105
Stephan Lackner, Max Beckmann, Memories of a Friendship, Coral Gables, 1969, mentioned p. 94
Erhard & Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, Bern, 1976, vol. I, no. 368, catalogued p. 255; vol. II, no. 368, illustrated pl. 126


The canvas is unlined and there is no evidence of retouching under ultra-violet light. This work is in very good original condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly fresher 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

In 1932, around the time when the present work was executed, Beckmann lived in Frankfurt and also had a studio in Paris, where he often retreated to complete his canvases. This period was marked by a mounting political and financial crisis for Beckmann and many of his fellow artists, as their work was increasingly coming under attack by the National Socialists. The artist was soon forced to abandon his Paris studio and, as his art was strongly criticised and eventually banned in Germany, Beckmann and his wife finally left the country in 1937, and settled in Amsterdam. There, the art historian Hans Jaffé, who had already met Beckmann, provided him with an apartment and studio, and organised for his belongings, including his works of art, to be sent to him from Germany.


While the present work depicts a seductive subject, it also masterfully captures the sense of anxiety that the artist felt during this time. The unidentified model, whose nude torso appears from between the white sheets, is tightly positioned within the narrow scope of the composition. In the 1930s and 1940s, Beckmann often used narrow canvases for his oils to suggest a sense of confinement and tension. As is commonly the case with his compositions, the narrative of Frau im Bett is quite enigmatic. The woman's wide open eyes, staring directly at the viewer, suggest flirtation as well as fear; the positioning of her hands could indicate a gesture of inviting the invisible painter towards her, as well as of protecting herself from him. The closely cropped composition strips the scene of any clues that might help the viewer identify the location of the scene, or the identity of the protagonist. This ambiguity imbues the composition with a powerful sense of psychological complexity, characteristic of the artist's most accomplished works.


Frau im Bett was acquired directly from the artist by the distinguished Beckmann scholar and collector Stephan Lackner, in whose collection it remained until his death in 2000. Stephan Lackner was the pen name of Ernest Gustave Morgenroth, a writer, journalist, violinist and scholar who became arguably Beckmann's most important patron. The two men first met towards the end of the 1920s, when Lackner was a student, but it was in 1933 that the definitive moment of revelation came that would open up a lifetime of friendship, patronage and scholarship. An exhibition of Beckmann's work planned for that year was banned by the National Socialists as they proclaimed his art 'degenerate'. Lackner managed to persuade the museum officials to show him the works hidden in the museum's basement, and this experience was to leave a profound impression on him. A great friendship and admiration grew between the two men and spanned more than two decades. During his long life Lackner acquired more than sixty-five paintings and a number of watercolours by Beckmann. Among these were the celebrated epic triptych Abfahrt (Departure) from 1932-35, now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Selbstbildnis mit Horn (Self-Portrait with Horn) of 1938.



Fig. 1, Max Beckmann, Amsterdam, 1938

Fig. 2, Max Beckmann, Atelier (Olympia), 1946, oil on canvas, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis