Max Beckmann in New York
Max Beckmann in New York
Upon his arrival at the port of New York, where Max Beckmann disembarked with his wife on 7 September 1947, the skyscrapers of Manhattan made a huge impression on him. This first stay was just a way station en route to St. Louis. Only in August 1949, after a few weeks of giving a summer course in Boulder, Colorado, did Beckmann move permanently to New York. Uncertainty regarding the extension of his contract at the art school in St. Louis had compelled him to look for other work opportunities. The Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, whom Beckmann had met in St. Louis in 1948, had brokered a teaching position at the Brooklyn Museum Art School with the director Augustus Peck; the contract had an initial term of six years.
The opportunities that the metropolis of New York had to offer were important to Beckmann, who had always preferred big cities to the countryside and smaller cities. World-renowned museums, cosmopolitan hotels, bars, circus, cinema, but also the expanses of Central Park and the rivers combined to form a perfect mix for the painter. Friends and acquaintances – some new, some from way back – lived here and did what they could for Beckmann, first and foremost the gallery owner Curt Valentin, who put on the first post-War exhibition with works by the painter in November 1946. In October 1949, Valentin sold Beckmann's triptych Beginning before the exhibition even began. The Carnegie Institute's first place award, which he received at the same time for his painting Fischerinnen [Fisherwomen], marked another important success in the new world. In spite of all the outward changes in his life, his view of the world, as he put it in a letter to Benno Reifenberg in 1949, had not changed since his Frankfurt years.
Twice a week the painter taught at the art school of the Brooklyn Art Museum, soon without the help of his wife, who sometimes assisted him as an interpreter. For a time he also taught at a private academy, the American Art School in New York. Beckmann used rooms in his flats on 19th Street and, after May 1950, on 69th Street in Manhattan as studio space.
The Korean crisis thwarted fresh plans to travel to Germany, which Beckmann had not visited since leaving the country in July 1937. He died of a heart attack on 27 December 1950 while on the way to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the corner of 69th Street and Central Park West.