Max Beckmann. Night (plate 7) [Die Nacht (Blatt 7)] from Hell (Die Hölle). (1919)
Max Beckmann

Night (plate 7) [Die Nacht (Blatt 7)] from Hell (Die Hölle)

(1919)
Not on view
Medium
One from a portfolio of eleven lithographs (including front cover)
Dimensions
composition (irreg.): 21 7/8 x 27 9/16" (55.5 x 70 cm); sheet: 24 3/16 x 34 5/16" (61.4 x 87.2 cm)
Publisher
J. B. Neumann, Berlin
Printer
C. Naumann's Druckerei, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Edition
75, signed and numbered to x/75, on "japan" paper (incl. 50 sets in half-linen portfolio [this ex.]; 25 sets sold as single prints); plus 4 known trial proofs before the edition
Credit
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
Object number
467.1949
Copyright
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Portfolio

Hell (Die Hölle)

Department
Drawings and Prints

In the portfolio Hölle (Hell), Max Beckmann journeys, Virgil-like, through Berlin. These ten oversize lithographs present an unflinching look at social disintegration and civil violence after the catastrophe of World War I. Beckmann visited Berlin in March 1919, and depicts himself amid the misery in Hölle; his self-portrait appears in five prints and on the front cover, which, in a handwritten note, promises the viewer an entertaining spectacle.

Unlike many of his compatriots, including the disfigured veteran he encounters in the first print, Der Nachhauseweg (The way home), Beckmann came back whole. He presents a fragmented city, with bodies jutting out of the pictures' frames and figures contorted in impossible spaces. In Die Strasse (The street), a thoroughfare is bustling with daytime activity, yet no one notices the man being carried off, arms flailing, by another man. In Das Martyrium (The martyrdom), under the cover of night, communist leader Rosa Luxemburg is about to be murdered. Speeches, songs, and even last stands are futile. No place is safe: Beckmann transforms an attic into a torture chamber in Die Nacht (Night), while quiet desperation pervades his own family's home in Der Hunger (Hunger). In the final print, Die Familie (The family), Beckmann's young son, Peter, mistakes a grenade for a toy. Beckmann brings the hell of war home in these prints. His publisher, J. B. Neumann, did not sell any when he exhibited them in 1919.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Additional text

Max Beckmann was among the foremost painters of the modern period, known for his enigmatic allegorical compositions illustrating the trials and tribulations of the human condition. Although he began his career working in a theatrical Post-Impressionist style, Beckmann's harrowing experience as a medical orderly in World War I transformed his art into one of compressed angular arrangements, peopled with the disaffected and disenfranchised of Germany's postwar society. In biblical scenes, crowded café pictures, circus tableaux, and self-portraits, he reflected the unrelenting anxiety and alienation he perceived in modern life.

Beckmann completed more than three hundred seventy prints, the vast majority between the years 1915 and 1924. He began his prolific career with lithography. Just before the war, however, he discovered that drypoint, which enabled him to create staccato marks and scratchy textures, matched his nervous, agitated state. Working without the aid of preliminary drawings, he attacked the plates directly, often pulling proofs on his personal press before sending the plates to be editioned. Although he essentially divided his printmaking between lithography and drypoint, Beckmann also tried his hand at woodcut. He completed only nineteen but their bold contrasts, abrupt croppings, and disengaged gazes make them among his most powerful graphic statements on the theme of isolation in the modern urban environment.

Beckmann's early successes as a painter attracted some of Germany's leading publishers, including Reinhard Piper in Munich and J. B. Neumann in Berlin, who commissioned the artist's major print portfolios. The series format provided Beckmann with the perfect vehicle to explore his allegorical narratives. In Night from the portfolio Hell he portrays the violence and decadence surrounding the Berlin riots of November 1918 and the founding of the Weimar Republic. With Mannerist distortion and foreshortened perspective he depicts the horrific scene in a stagelike setting, implicating the viewer as the audience of this ugly spectacle.

Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 88

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Weyhe Gallery, New York; to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1949

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Pictured above: Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 2 (detail). 1914. Oil on canvas, 64 1/8 x 48 3/8" (162.6 x 122.7 cm). Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund (by exchange). © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

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Related links:
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