Max Beckmann - Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I New York Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | Phillips
  • “Learn the forms of nature by heart, so you can use them like the musical notes of a composition. That’s what these forms are for.”
    —Max Beckmann
    Max Beckmann’s Blühender Garten, 1933, shows a garden alive with energy, as if painted in a moment of calm before a summer storm. His brushstrokes bristle to attention, with black outlines, quivering flowers, and a still swimming pool. 


    Beckmann rose to prominence as a painter associated with Neue Sachlichkeit, a post-World War I German avant-garde movement that reacted against the bright and emotional pre-War German Expressionism. With works such as Die Nacht, 1918-1919, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Beckmann depicted the horrors of World War I from a distorted and disillusioned point of view. The placid, yet ominous Blühender Garten picks up on the social urgency of Neue Sachlichkeit, as a rejection of passive acceptance of the rise of Nazism in Germany; in Beckmann’s view, even the daffodils and foxgloves are affected.


    In 1933, the year he painted Blühender Garten, Beckmann was dismissed by the Art School in Frankfurt after Hitler was named Chancellor of the Reich. Beckmann would be ostracized as a “degenerate artist” in the coming years, and eventually flee to Amsterdam at the outbreak of World War II. This political tension simmers beneath the surface of Beckmann’s serene Blühender Garten, rendered in moody shades of blue and green.i


    Max Beckmann, Die Nacht, 1918-1919. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Image: bpk Bildagentur / Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf / Walter Klein/ Art Resource, NY 

    The flowering garden of Blühender Garten is likely that of the Villa Kaulbach, the Bavarian estate of Beckmann’s in-laws. Between 1930 and 1935, Beckmann and his wife, Mathilde “Quappi” von Kaulbach, often traveled to the Kaulbach home in Ohlstadt, Upper Bavaria on holiday. Built by Quappi’s father, the noted German painter Friedrich August von Kaulbach, the home had a large painting studio on the premises which Beckmann used frequently. The Villa Kaulbach became a welcome retreat for the artist, who, discouraged by fascist censorship of the German avant-garde, took the opportunity to devote time to his paintings of nature.


    Beckmann began his career as a landscape painter, and always held a propensity for the genre. While Beckmann’s atmospheric renderings of the natural world may suggest an Impressionist influence, Beckmann in fact allied himself more closely within the legacy of the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. Beginning with Cézanne’s strong sense of pictorial order, Beckmann took a more patchwork approach to his landscapes, evident in the jagged brushstrokes and bold black lines of Blühender Garten, which stand in stark contrast to Cézanne’s layered, constructive application of paint. 


    Paul Cézanne, The Pool at the Jas de Bouffan, late 1880s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Meropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960, 61.101.5

    As Carla Schulz-Hoffmann says, “Beckmann’s work always exists on two levels… even when a work appears as a breathtaking peinture, it lures the viewer into a deceptive security which is merely a façade for the abyss looming behind.”ii This could be said to be the case for Blühender Garten. While appearing as a simple garden scene, one cannot disentangle this striking work from the context in which it was painted—namely, the rising tensions in the artist’s hometown of Frankfurt, and his impending exile from Germany. Painted at a pivotal moment in the artist’s career, Blühender Garten is simultaneously a testament to the artist’s knowledge of the darkness of the world he is commemorating, and celebration of the beauty of nature that continues to bloom, despite it all.



    i  “Max Beckmann – The Pre-Exile Years,” Arts in Exile, accessed Sep. 28, 2023, online.

    ii Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, “Bars, Fetters, and Masks: The Problem of Constraint in the Work of Max Beckmann,” in Walter Barker, ed. Max Beckmann: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Saint Louis Art Museum, 1984, p. 15.

    • Description

      Please see main sale page for guarantee notice

    • Provenance

      The Artist’s Studio
      Erna Hanfstängel, Munich (probably acquired from the above after 1938)
      Deposited (from the above) for safekeeping at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Munich, where recovered by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section, and by whom transferred to, Munich Central Collecting Point (Munich No. 16027), on December 8, 1945
      Returned to Erna Hanfstaengl on September 2, 1946
      Adolf Wüster, Munich (acquired circa 1948)
      Kunstkabinett Klihm, Munich
      Dr. Henry Goverts, Vaduz (acquired in 1950)
      Galerie Ketterer, Campione d’Italia (acquired in 1967)
      Sotheby’s, London, April 12, 1972, lot 43
      Modarco Collection, Geneva (acquired at the above sale)
      Galerie Thomas, Munich
      Private Collection, Germany (acquired in 1976)
      Van Beveren Expertise, The Hague
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

    • Exhibited

      Kunsthalle Bern, Max Beckmann, Marguerite Frey-Surbek, Martin Christ, Fernanrd Riard, February 19–March 20, 1938, no. 13 (titled Garten in Bayern)
      Kunstverein Winterthur, Max Beckmann, April 3–May 8, 1938, no. 15, n.p. (titled Garten in Bayern I)
      New York, Spencer A. Samuels and Company, Expressionismus, October 22–November 16, 1968, pl. 46, pp. 98-99 (illustrated, p. 98; titled Garden in Bayern I (Kaulbach Garden in Ohlstadt))
      Munich, Galerie Thomas, Die Ersten 15 Jahre, February 7–March 27, 1980, no. 21, n.p. (illustrated)
      Dortmund, Galerie Utermann, Werke des Deutschen Expressionismus und der Klassischen Moderne aus 7 Dortmunder Privatsammlungen, September 1–30, 1995, no. 5, n.p. (illustrated)
      Murnau am Staffelsee, Schloßmuseum, Max Beckmann. Abseits der Großstadt – oberbayerische Landschaft, April 3–July 12, 1998, p. 41 (illustrated)
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Meer dan kleur. Fauvisme en expressionisme uit de collectie van de Triton Foundation, April 11–September 6, 2009, pp. 30-31 (illustrated, p. 30)
      Kunstmuseum Basel, Max Beckmann: The Landscapes, September 8, 2011–January 22, 2012, no. 35, fig. 11, pp. 30, 35, 134-135 (illustrated, pp. 30, 35; titled Garden in Bloom)
      Rotterdam, Kunsthal, Avant-gardes 1870 to the present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation, October 7, 2012–January 20, 2013, pp. 210-211, 538 (illustrated, p. 211; titled Garden in Bavaria)

    • Literature

      Roman Norbert Ketterer, Moderne Kunst IV, Campione, 1967, no. 2, pp. 6-7 (illustrated, p. 6; titled Garten in Bayern I)
      Roman Norbert Ketterer, Moderne Kunst V, Campione, 1968, no. 4, p. 8 (illustrated; titled Garten in Bayern I)
      Roman Norbert Ketterer, Moderne Kunst VI, Campione, 1969, no. 6, pp. 14-15 (illustrated, p. 14; titled Garten in Bayern I)
      Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I and II, Bern, 1976, no. 378, vol I, p. 259; vol II, p. 128 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 128)
      Susanne Rother, Beckmann als Landschaftsmaler, Munich, 1990, p. 80
      "Ich kann wirklich ganz gut malen." Friedrich August von Kaulbach - Max Beckmann, exh. cat., Schloßmuseum, Murnau am Staffelsee, 2002, p. 89
      Max Beckmann und Berlin, exh. cat., Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, 2015, pp. 210, 215
      Anja Tiedemann, Barbara Göpel and Erhard Göpel, Max Beckmann: Die Gemälde, vol. I, Ahlen, 2021, no. 378, pp. 456-457 (illustrated, p. 456; detail illustrated, p. 457)
      Anja Tiedemann, Max Beckmann Catalogue Raisonné der Gemälde, 2016–online, no. MB-G 378 (illustrated; accessed on September 22, 2023)



Blühender Garten

signed, inscribed and dated "Beckmann O. 33" lower right; inscribed “Kaulbach Garten Ohlstadt” on the reverse
oil on canvas
29 1/2 x 30 3/4 in. (74.9 x 78.1 cm)
Painted in 1933.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $508,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1206

Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I

New York Auction 14 November 2023