Max Beckmann Archive

The Max Beckmann Archiv

The Max Beckmann Archive – that evolved from the archive established by the first Max Beckmann Gesellschaft (Max Beckmann Society) – is devoted to one of the most important artists of the 20th century. The principal task of the archive is to collect material and information that illuminate all facets of the life and work of Max Beckmann. For this purpose, all archival material (autographic items, newspaper cuttings, photos, etc.) is systematically catalogued and made available for research purposes.

The Max Beckmann Archive comprises more than 5000 letters, 300 of which are in Max Beckmann’s handwriting, as well as about 6000 photographs, some 60,000 newspaper cuttings and many more than 1400 special publications. Unpublished material such as lectures or dissertations is also kept in the continuously expanding archive, together with video films and sound storage media. Separate files are kept on each of Max Beckmann’s works and on certain figures within his circle of acquaintances. The archive is part of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. The Max Beckmann Gesellschaft, maintaining extensive holdings on its own, partly takes care of the archive.

The archive’s holdings continue to expand thanks to new acquisitions and gifts. The archive also regularly updates the catalogues of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures as well as bibliographical data. Its own publications, brochures, exhibitions and series of lectures all contribute to furthering research on Beckmann.

Quappi in Pink Jumper / Quappi in rosa Jumper, 1934, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornesmisza, Madrid © VEGAP, Madrid


The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum presents from 23rd October, 2018 a monographic exhibition under the title Max Beckmann. Figures in Exile. Curated by Tomàs Llorens, the exhibition brings together more than 50 works organized thematically into two principal sections. The first, smaller section covers Beckmann’s years in Germany from the period prior to World War I to the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s when he was banned from exhibiting in public. The second, larger part focuses on the artist’s years in Amsterdam and the United States where he lived after he was obliged to leave Germany. This part is based on four metaphors relating to exile, understood both literally and as the existential condition of modern man: Masks; Electric Babylon; The long goodbye and The Sea.

Arts in Exile

The Max Beckmann Archive is permanently and well represented in the online exhibition ‘Künste im Exil’ (Arts in Exile).

This exhibition represents a new concept in accessing information exclusively on ‘the arts in exile’, past and present. It aims at showing the exile of artists in its multiplicity and at generating a lasting awareness.

‘Arts in Exile’ is a network project that unites the exhibits, contents and findings of more than thirty research institutions, archives, exhibition venues and initiatives in a virtual form. The ‘German Exile Archive 1933–1945’ within the German National Library is responsible for the management and coordination of the project.

The ‘Arts in Exile’ exhibition can be viewed by clicking here.

Short Biography

Born on 12 February in Leipzig

Studies at the Großherzogliche Kunstschule in Weimar


Berlin; first success with early work
Landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, still lifes and especially large-format, complex figurative paintings of religious subjects as well as depictions of contemporary scenes

Volunteers as medical orderly in World War I

Numerous drawings and prints of war-related events; writes Briefe im Kriege (Letters in Wartime)

Frankfurt am Main; radical change in Beckmann’s art around 1915 (The Night 1918/1919)
Series of graphic works focussing on the subject of war and post-war city life, with particular emphasis on theatre, circus, fairs and cabaret; extended trips to Italy and lengthy periods in Paris

Beckmann emerges as one of the best-known and most successful German painters

Divorces Minna née Tube; marries Mathilde ‘Quappi’ von Kaulbach

Starts work on first triptych (Departure)

Together with many other artists Beckmann declared a ‘degenerate’ artists by the Nazis; dismissed from his post at the Städelschule; moves to Berlin

Emigrates to Amsterdam

My Theory of Painting’ lecture in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Twentienth Century German Art’ in London

Experiences increasing difficulties at the beginning of World War II and through the occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans

Beckmann nevertheless extraordinarily productive; creates number of major works including other triptychs and illustrations to Apocalypse and Faust II

Gains teaching position at Washington University Art School in St. Louis; ‘Letters to a Woman Painter’

Finally emigrates to the USA; professorship at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York

Max Beckmann dies on 27 December in New York after completing his ninth triptych.

fig.: Helga Fietz: Max Beckmann in his studio in Amsterdam, 1938
© Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V.

The Max Beckmann Gesellschaft

The Freundeskreis Max Beckmann Archiv e.V. (Friends of the Max Beckmann Archiv), known as the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V. (The Max Beckmann Society) since 2005, was founded in 1996. The aim of the society is to promote public access to the Max Beckmann archive for academic purposes by expanding the existing holdings (autographic works, photographs, typescripts and other archival material) and to make funds available for research, publications, exhibitions, lectures, etc. with the intention of upholding Max Beckmann’s reputation and promoting his work. Members receive an annual artist’s edition as well as reduced admission to events held by the society and organised visits to major exhibitions.

We would be pleased to welcome you as a member of the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V.

Minimum annual subscription fees for membership to the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V. are as follows:

100 euros for private individuals
150 euros for married couples
  25 euros for students
512 euros for corporate bodies or associations of individuals

Receipts for tax purposes are given for annual subscriptions and donations.



To become a member of the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V. please print out and complete the registration form and send it by post to the following address:

Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V.
Barer Strasse 29
80799 Munich

Mayen Beckmann
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Maaz
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Augustyn
Britta Biergans
Jeanette Scholz
Dr. Christiane Zeiller
Dr. Ludwig von Zumbusch

Mayen Beckmann

fig: Martin Mosebach presenting his lecture ‘Vermeer’s Rooms’ on 29 January 2014 in the Pinakothek der Moderne

Summary of holdings

5000 letters, including just under 300 handwritten by Max Beckmann himself, as well as letters by Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud and others are kept in the archive. Max Beckmann’s letters to Günther Franke, Stephan Lackner and Reinhard Piper form a large section as do Mathilde ‘Quappi’ Beckmann’s letters to her sister Hedda. The archive also holds many letters written by friends and acquaintances of the artist to one another as, for example, by the two art dealers Günther Franke and J.B. Neumann. There is extensive material from Stephan Lackner and his descendants in the archive, including many typescripts and all the writer’s publications.

In addition, 1000 letters to the Frankfurt-based patron of the arts and collector Carl Hagemann (1867–1940) on Expressionism are kept in the Max Beckmann Archive. These letters, some with drawings and largely from members of the ‘Brücke’ group of artists, formed part of the estate of Carl Hagemann, one of the movement’s greatest benefactors. Without the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V. this collection of letters – of singular importance to the history and art history of the 20th century – would not have remained as one entity but would have been dispersed on the open market. Its acquisition by the non-profit making society for the archive under its management was made possible by the kind support of the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States), the Bayerische Landesstiftung, the Hubert Burda Foundation and the Eleonora-Schamberger Nachlass, as well as through private donations and its own funds.

The Max Beckmann Archive also has approximately 6000 photographs, some 60,000 newspaper cuttings and many more than 1400 special publications. A large part of these holdings is the property of the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft; other sections belong to the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen and Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation. The comprehensive holdings are continuously being expanded. The catalogues of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures as well as bibliographical references are constantly updated.

fig from: Max Beckmann, ‘Letters to a Woman Painter’, 1948, gift of Maja and Mayen Beckmann
© Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V.


New Acquisitions

In 2013, two large batches of material were given to the society. One, from Stephan Lackner’s estate – the tenth to be presented by his sons – includes family photographs, copies of letters from Stephan Lackner and his father to Max Beckmann, typescripts of his own works and various notes, among other things. The other large new batch is from the estate of Günter Busch through his son Professor Werner Busch that includes valuable handwritten items by Minna Beckmann-Tube, Helmuth Lütjens, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky and many others, as well as numerous drafts of speeches and essays of his own, newspaper articles and short items.

In 2014, fourteen handwritten letters by Julius Meier-Graefe to the publisher Reinhard Piper were purchased at auction. These represent an invaluable supplement to Max Beckmann’s letters to Reinhard Piper already in the archive’s holdings, as well as letters and photos of Meier-Graefe’s. A letter from Max Beckmann to Alfred Kubin dated 1922 was also purchased that same year (see. fig.) in addition to a letter from the artist to Benno Reifenberg. A letter from Max Beckmann to Theo Garve was presented as a gift from Jörg and Sabine Maaß. Stephan Lackner’s sons gave the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft another batch of important material from their father’s estate – the eleventh – to be kept in the archive.

In 2015, a number of items were acquired from Josefa Simon – the daughter of Irma and Heinrich Simon. The Simons were among Max Beckmann’s most important friends and supporters. The estate includes a number of interesting, unpublished, handwritten items by Max and Quappi Beckmann, a photograph of the two and a larger portrait photo of the artist, as well as lots of small handwritten items, exhibition catalogues and newspaper cuttings.

The Max Beckmann Gesellschaft received several other valuable gifts that same year: the descendants of Wolfgang Frommel presented the society with a batch of important material that included a number of letters and postcards from Wolfgang Frommel to Gretel Bilger, Heim-Harro Scheiner, Otto Hallen, Veronika Poll-Frommel, Elisabeth Frommel, Magdalene Haass-Berkow and others. These are an important addition to the holdings as material from Wolfgang Frommel and his circle already existed in the Max Beckmann Archiv. Dieter Weingärtner handed over material from the estates of Lili von Braunbehrens and Fridel Battenberg to the society. Both were closely associated with Max Beckmann around 1920, as can be seen in a number of his works. The batch of items also includes letters by Maja and Peter Beckmann, Günter Busch, Erhard Göpel, Benno Reifenberg, Hanns Swarzenski and Peter Zingler. The latter was a close friend of the artist during World War I.

In May and June 2016 two extensive and important groups of handwritten items from the estate of the Hamburg businessman Henry B. Simms were presented to the Max Beckmann Gesellschaft by Simms’ descendants – his granddaughter Nina Katzenstein and great-granddaughter Charlotte Mühlinghaus.

fig: Max Beckmann to Alfred Kubin, 31 October 1922
© Max Beckmann Gesellschaft e.V.



Academic Projects

Anja Tiedemann
Max Beckmann – Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings
An initiative of and financed by the Franz Dieter und Michaela Kaldewei Kulturstiftung, Ahlen

Stephan von Wiese, Hedda Finke
Max Beckmann – Catalogue Raisonné of Drawings

Felix Billeter
Research project of the Bayerische Staatgemäldesammlungen and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus
The art dealer and collector Günther Franke. A contribution to the history of the German art trade and acquisitions in state and municipal art collections in Munich.

A four-year project sponsored by the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung including an exhibition and a publication.

Barbara C. Buenger
Max Beckmann in Germany, 1904–1937


Released Publications:

Lynette Roth
Saint Louis Art Museum
Œuvre catalogue of Max Beckmann’s Collection of Paintings
published in 2015 by DelMonico Books/Prestel

Christiane Zeiller
Max Beckmann. The Sketchbooks, A Critical Catalogue. Sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
published in 2010 by Hatje Cantz


Please find all publications (most of them are in german) here.


The Max Beckmann Archive is open to the general public for research purposes.

Please arrange an appointment to work in the archive in advance.

Head of archive:
Prof. Dr. Christian Lenz

Please contact us by e-mail: