MoMA
Max Beckmann. Self-Portrait (front cover) (Selbstbildnis [Umschlag]) from Hell (Die Hölle). (1918/1919, published 1919)
Max Beckmann

Self-Portrait (front cover) (Selbstbildnis [Umschlag]) from Hell (Die Hölle)

(1918/1919, published 1919)
Not on view
Medium
Cover lithograph, from a portfolio of eleven lithographs (including cover)
Dimensions
composition: 24 15/16 x 16 7/16" (63.4 x 41.7 cm)
Publisher
J. B. Neumann, Berlin
Printer
C. Naumann's Druckerei, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Edition
125 (including 50 mounted on front cover of the portfolio [this ex.] and 75 without text as plate I of the portfolio); plus 18 known state proofs
Credit
Purchase
Object number
680.1954
Copyright
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Portfolio

Hell (Die Hölle)

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.
Provenance information
probably New Gallery, New York; to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1954

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Image permissions

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.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource