Max Beckmann: Departure. Triptych, painting (1932-1935)

Painting: Max Beckmann, Departure
Max Beckmann: Departure, Triptych 1932-1935
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Fotoabteilung, Museum of Modern Art, New York © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015

Max Beckmann: Departure. Triptych, painting (1932-1935)

In Beckmann’s own list of his works, the titles of the individual paintings of the triptych are: The Castle (left), The Staircase (right) and The Homecoming (middle painting).

All the paintings have the same height of 215.5cm, while the middle painting, at 115cm, is just a little wider than the side paintings at 99.5 cm each. Therefore the side paintings have considerable significance from the outset. They show bleak interiors with disturbing scenes, while in the middle painting we see the openness and breadth of the sea and the sky, and a royal family with their helpers on a bright, sunny day.

The title of the whole triptych, Departure, is used by Beckmann for the first time in his correspondence with the artist Curt Valentin. In a letter to him on 11 February 1938, the artist baulks from explaining the work on the one hand, while also giving an important hint, which he then tries to modify immediately:
“Departure, yes departure from the deceptive appearance of life to the fundamental things in themselves that stand behind this appearance. However, this ultimately applies to all my paintings. But, all that’s certain is that “Departure” is not a tendentious piece, and can be applied to any period.  - ” (ed. trans.)

Christian Lenz, Max Beckmann Archiv