Lot 36
  • 36

Max Beckmann

2,200,000 - 2,800,000 USD
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  • Max Beckmann
  • Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 42 7/8 by 31 1/8 in.
  • 109 by 79 cm


Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York

The Lawrence Heller Foundation, Washington, D.C. (acquired in 1948)

Morton D. May, Saint Louis (acquired in 1967)

Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London

Saul P. Steinberg (and sold: Christie's, New York, The Saul P. Steinberg Collection, May 18, 1981, lot 58)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale and sold: Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, June 19, 1998, lot 7)

Acquired at the above sale


Zurich, Kunsthaus, Max Beckmann, 1955-56, no. 130 (as dating from 1947)

Basel, Kunsthalle, Ausstellung Max Beckmann, 1956, no. 118 (as dating from 1947)

The Hague, Gemeente Museum, Max Beckmann, 1956, no. 99 (as dating from 1947)

Bielefeld, Richard Kaselowsky-Haus, Kunsthalle der Stadt Bielefeld, Deutsche Expressionisten aus der Sammlung Morton D. May St. Louis, USA, 1968-69, no. 23, illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated 1947)

New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery Inc. & Saint Louis, City Art Museum, The Morton D. May Collection of 20th Century German Masters, 1970, no. 43, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Max Beckmann: Meisterwerke, 1907-1950, 1994, no. 54, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Frankfurt, Städel Museum, Beckmann & America, 2011-12, no. 54, illustrated in color in the catalogue


The Artist's MSS Catalogue, Saint Louis, 1947, no. 20

Benno Reifenberg & Wilhelm Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich, 1949, no. 627

Erhard Göpel & Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann, Katalog der Gemälde, Bern, 1976, vol. I, no. 764, catalogued p. 459; vol. II, no. 764, illustrated pl. 280

Catalogue Note

Painted in Saint Louis in 1948 just months after Beckmann immigrated to the United States, Die Walküre is a nostalgic painting which recalls the artist’s German homeland. The present work is titled after Die Walküre or The Valkyrie, a three act opera written by the renowned German composer and theater director, Richard Wagner. The story is inspired by Norse mythology predominately from the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda. In Norse mythology, a Valkyrie (meaning chooser of the slain) is a female who selects those who will die in battle and those who will live. She then escorts the deceased to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled by the god Odin.

In Beckmann’s Die Walküre, the artist portrays the lead Valkyrie as an opera singer backstage. Die Walküre, was painted during one of the most fruitful and inventive phases of Beckmann’s career, which occurred while he was living in St. Louis following the Second World War. Many of his works executed during this time are considered the most important examples of his mature oeuvre. In the present work, Beckmann depicts a slender opera singer holding a spear and shield about to make her entrance on stage. She is flanked by a costume designer who makes final adjustments to her wardrobe before her debut. Although Beckmann was married to his second wife Quappi at the time the present work was painted, Karoline Feulner suggests the present work was inspired by his first wife Minna. “Minna Beckmann-Tube (1881-1964), the painter’s first wife, was a trained opera singer who often embodied the role of Brünhild, the head of the nine Valkyries, in the 1920s. That the painting contains a concealed memory of the young singer is not improbable as Beckmann continued to correspond regularly with Minna in Bavaria as well as with their son Peter after moving to the United States. By portraying her as an armor-wearing Valkyrie, he might have wanted to express the wish that the noble Minna had the strength to overcome the turmoil of the postwar period in Germany” (K. Feulner, Beckmann & America (exhibition catalogue), Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 2011, p. 138).

One of the first owners of the present work was the American philanthropist and collector, Morton D. May of Saint Louis. May began acquiring German Expressionist works in 1945 and was the first collector of Beckmann in the United States. May acquired his first painting by Beckmann from Curt Valentin in New York while living in St. Louis and did not realize that at the time Beckmann was teaching a few miles away at Washington University. During Beckmann’s time in St. Louis, he and May become close friends; Beckmann painted a portrait of May in 1949. May amassed one of the largest collections of German Expressionist art in America and donated over one thousand works from his collection to the Saint Louis Art Museum upon his death.