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THE COLLECTION

Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950)

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From the illustrated book

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  • Max Beckmann. Title page (Titelblatt) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    Title page (Titelblatt) from...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. Title page (Titelblatt) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
  • Max Beckmann. Drinking Song (Trinklied) (plate 1) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    Drinking Song (Trinklied) (plate 1)...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. Drinking Song (Trinklied) (plate 1) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
  • Max Beckmann. City Night (Stadtnacht) (plate 2) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    City Night (Stadtnacht) (plate 2)...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. City Night (Stadtnacht) (plate 2) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
  • Max Beckmann. Bitterness (Verbitterung) (plate 3) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    Bitterness (Verbitterung) (plate 3)...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. Bitterness (Verbitterung) (plate 3) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
  • Max Beckmann. Suburban Morning (Vorstadtmorgen) (plate 4) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    Suburban Morning (Vorstadtmorgen)...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. Suburban Morning (Vorstadtmorgen) (plate 4) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
  • Max Beckmann. Furnished Room (Möbliert) (plate 5) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    Furnished Room (Möbliert) (plate...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. Furnished Room (Möbliert) (plate 5) from Stadtnacht (City Night). 1921
  • Max Beckmann. The Sick One (Die Kranke)(plate 6) fromStadtnacht (City Night). 1921
    The Sick One (Die Kranke)(plate 6)...
    1921
    Max Beckmann. The Sick One (Die Kranke)(plate 6) fromStadtnacht (City Night). 1921

About this illustrated book

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

While convalescing in Frankfurt after a mental breakdown during World War I, Max Beckmann befriended Lili von Braunbehrens, the twenty-year-old daughter of an army official who helped smooth his release from the military. Braunbehrens, who was nearly blind, recorded her impressions of her nightly wanderings through Frankfurt in twenty poems that Munich-based Reinhard Piper, at Beckmann's urging, published as Stadtnacht (City night). Beckmann illustrated six poems and the title page.

The collection opens with a glimpse of a gruesome murder, witnessed through the window of a cheap apartment building. In the modern metropolis there is no refuge, not even at home. One print shows the revelries of a group of nouveaux riche seemingly oblivious to the surrounding economic and social collapse, while a brothel scene commodifies human interaction. The rest depict the hopelessness of working-class life. In most of the prints, figures spill out of the cramped and distorted spaces, heightening the feelings of alienation and loneliness.

In his illustration of the poem "Verbitterung" (Bitterness), Beckmann showed himself looking through an apartment window to the streets below, isolated from human contact. In the final print, Die Kranke (The sick one), he depicted an emaciated figure in a sparsely furnished room facing the end alone. Throughout Stadtnacht, Beckmann used Expressionist techniques of distortion and exaggeration to underscore the failures of postwar society.

Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950)

The Illustrated Book

Stadtnacht (City Night)

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Author:
Lili von Braunbehrens
Date:
1921
Medium:
Illustrated book with seven lithographs
Dimensions:
page (each approx.): 10 5/8 x 8 7/8" (27 x 22.5 cm); overall: 10 7/8 x 9 1/16 x 3/8" (27.7 x 23 x 0.9 cm)
Paper:
Cream, slightly textured, laid (except endpapers).
Publisher:
R. Piper & Co., Munich
Printer of Plates:
Dr. C. Wolf & Sohn, Munich
Printer of Text:
Knorr & Hirth, Munich
Edition:
Book: 600 (including deluxe edition of 100 in half-leather binding; and regular edition of 500 in half-linen binding [this ex.]; Portfolio: 100 accompanying deluxe edition of book
Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection
Copyright:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Reference:
Gallwitz 135-141. Glaser 141-147. Hofmaier 164-170. Rifkind 136 1-6.
MoMA Number:
674.1964.1-7
Themes:
Literary Subjects
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