Sunday, June 20, 2010

Max and Quappi Beckmann

 Max Beckmann, Carnival: The Artist and His Wife, 1925

Beckmann’s personal style softened perceptibly from the mid-1920s, when he met and married his second wife, Matilde von Kaulbach, better known as Quappi. An excellent violinist, much younger than he, from a well-to-do family, and very much in love, she may have been a distraction for the artist-moralist. Only two years earlier, when Beckmann was asked whether he would paint some war pictures, he replied: "Längst bin ich in anderen Kriegen" (I'm already in different wars). He regarded his art as a combat. But in 1925, he suddenly seemed to have concluded an armistice with his deeper problems. A great love of life inspired Beckmann at that time, and Quappi helped him to enjoy the present. The Beckmanns were popular with the artistically inclined society of Frankfurt, and Beckmann became the teacher of a master class. It may be noted that later on, when Nazi persecution, exile, hunger, cold, and danger changed their style of living, Quappi remained a most efficient helpmate. "She is an angel," Beckmann said, "sent to me so I could accomplish my work." In 1925 this lay far in the future. At the moment Max and Quappi are two figures from a new commedia dell'arte: harlequin and a lovely horsewoman with a funny hat. 

 Max Beckmann, Quappi in Pink, 1932

The thick black outlines, earlier used to convey his bitter condemnation of contemporary society, thenceforth served to define the facial features of his attractive young wife. Beckmann’s swift brushstrokes turn Quappi - portrayed here on a blue armchair, fashionably dressed and holding a cigarette - into a prototype of the modern woman; resolute and self-confident. The above portrait was started in 1932 and finished in 1934, by which time Beckmann had changed the date and also toned down Quappi’s smile to reflect the couple’s concern at the rise of the Nazis to power.

Max and Quappi Beckmann in front of Hotel „Stephanie“ in Baden-Baden, 1928

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