At the age of 16, against the will of his family, Max Beckmann began the study of painting at the progressive Grand Ducal Art School in Weimar. After stays in Paris and Geneva, he settled in Berlin in 1904, where he joined the Secession. In 1906, thanks to a scholarship, he worked in the Villa Romana in Florence, took part in the exhibition of the Berlin Secession in Weimar, received the honorary award of the German Association of Artists and married Minna Tube. As an advocate of German Impressionism, he co-founded the Free Secession in 1913. During the First World War, Beckmann was a volunteer medical aide, but was released early after a mental breakdown. The artist processed the war experiences in an expressionist and at the same time time-critical style of expression.

The symbolic and the enigmatic was becoming increasingly important, the focus of his subjects was on man – lonely and threatened in an apocalyptic world. From 1915 to 1933 he taught in Frankfurt am Main at the State School of Applied Arts, today’s Städelschule. In the 1920s Beckmann was at the height of his artistic fame. Numerous exhibitions in the major cities of Europe were dedicated to his work. In 1928 the Kunsthalle Mannheim presented a large retrospective. But his career was interrupted in 1933 when the Nazis seized power. Ostracized as “degenerate” he emigrated to Holland in 1937 and to the USA in 1947.

From 1947 he taught at the Washington University Art School in St. Louis, from 1949 in New York at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and received an honorary doctorate from Washington University in 1950 shortly before his death. His late work is shaped by the experiences of the exile years and includes large mythological triptychs drenched in symbols.