logo
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Title: Acrobats
Date: 1937-39
Artist: Max Beckmann
German, 1884–1950
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions:
left panel: 78 7/8 x 35 3/4 in. (200.3 x 90.8 cm)
center panel: 79 x 66 1/8 in. (200.7 x 168 cm)
right panel: 78 3/4 x 35 5/8 in. (200 x 90.5 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of Morton D. May
Object Number: 851:1983a-c
Place made: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands
Current Location: On View, Gallery 216
Notes:
More than a dozen figures-including acrobats, tight-rope walkers, a snake handler, and other characters-bind together the panels of this triptych. The circus costumes, activities, and congested interior setting allow Max Beckmann to convey his somewhat dark view of human nature and the world. The painting's title refers not only to the theme of circus performers, but also to what Beckmann saw as the role of the artist and his art: taking risks, thrilling the viewers, and astonishing the mind and senses.
Signed: left panel, l.c., in brown paint: Beckmann A '39; center panel, l.r., in brown paint: Beckmann A '39; right panel, l.c., in brown paint: Beckmann A '39
Provenance
- 1946
Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Amsterdam, The Netherlands [1]

1946
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York, NY, USA, acquired from the artist [2]

1946 - 1955
Wright S. Ludington, Santa Barbara, CA, purchased from Buchholz Gallery [3]

1955/12/04 - 1983
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from Wright S. Ludington through Stephan Lackner [4]

1983 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, bequest of Morton D. May [5]


Notes:
[1] Max Beckmann kept lists of most of his paintings which often included the dates that they were worked on. This painting is included in Beckmann's Amsterdam list. Beckmann notes that he worked on the painting around August 25, 1939 [Göpel, Erhard and Barbara Göpel."Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde." Bern: Kornfeld & Cie., 1976, cat. no. 536].

[2] Beckmann shipped "Acrobats" to his dealer, Curt Valentin, in New York, for an exhibition of his work held from April 23 to June 25, 1946. According to the handwritten shipping record, the painting was one of fourteen works on the ship "Delftdyk" which left Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on January 14, 1946 and arrived in New York on February 9, 1946 [Curt Valentin Papers, Museum of Modern Art, New York].

[3] By the time the exhibition catalog for the Curt Valentin show was published, the painting was already listed as being in the collection of Wright Ludington, indicating that it had been sold by that time ["Max Beckmann: His Recent Works from 1939 to 1945." New York: Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), 1946, cat. no. 1]. On April 1, 1946, Valentin reported to Beckmann that he had already sold the "Acrobats" to Ludington [Curt Valentin Papers, Museum of Modern Art, New York].

[4] The sale of the triptych from Ludington through Lackner to May is documented in correspondence and a bill of sale dated December 4, 1955 [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum].

[5] Last Will and Testament of M. D. May dated June 11, 1982 [copy, May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, September 20, 1983.
Exhibition History
Title: Max Beckmann (1964-1965)
Date: May 15, 1964 - November 7, 1965
Venue: The Art Institute of Chicago
Venue: Tate Britain
Venue: Kunstverein Hamburg
Venue: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Venue: Frankfurter Kunstverein
Venue: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Title: German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Mr. Morton D. May (1967)
Date: September 20 - October 22, 1967
Venue: Portland Art Museum
Title: European Masters of Our Time
Date: October 10 - November 17,1957
Venue: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Title: Modern German Masterpieces
Date: February 22, 1986 - June 21, 1987
Venue: Seattle Art Museum
Venue: San Diego Museum of Art
Venue: Fort Worth Art Museum
Venue: Phoenix Art Museum
Venue: Crocker Art Museum
Venue: North Carolina Museum of Art
Title: The Wright Ludington Collection
Date: May 13 - June 20, 1948
Venue: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Title: Max Beckmann: Meisterwerke 1907-1950
Date: September 21, 1994 - January 8, 1995
Venue: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Title: Max Beckmann (1968-1969)
Date: September 25, 1968 - March 2, 1969
Venue: Centre Georges Pompidou - Musée National d'Art Moderne
Venue: Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels
Venue: Haus der Kunst, München
Title: Max Beckmann: The Triptychs
Date: November 13, 1980 - January 11, 1981
Venue: Whitechapel Art Gallery
Title: 20th Century Masterworks from St. Louis Collections
Date: December 1, 1973 - February 3, 1974
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Beckmann: His Recent Work from 1939 to 1945
Date: April 23 - June 25, 1946
Venue: Buchholz Gallery
Venue: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Venue: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Title: Max Beckmann Retrospective (1984)
Date: February 25, 1984 - February 3, 1985
Venue: Neue Nationalgalerie
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Venue: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Venue: Haus der Kunst, München
Title: Max Beckmann, un peintre dans l'histoire
Date: September 10, 2002 - September 29, 2003
Venue: Centre Georges Pompidou - Musée National d'Art Moderne
Venue: Tate Modern
Venue: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Title: Expressionisten: Sammlung Morton D. May
Date: September 27, 1968 - September 14, 1969
Venue: Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts
Venue: Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe
Venue: Museum Folkwang
Venue: Kunsthalle Bremen
Venue: Kunsthalle Bielefeld
Venue: Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
Title: Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May (1960)
Date: February 14 - July 4, 1960
Venue: Pius XII Memorial Library
Title: German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May (1960-1963)
Date: November 13, 1960 - January 6, 1963
Venue: The Baltimore Museum of Art
Venue: William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art
Venue: Carnegie Museum of Art
Venue: The Corcoran Gallery of Art
Venue: University of California, Los Angeles
Venue: Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego
Venue: Denver Art Museum
Venue: The Butler Institute of American Art
Venue: Akron Art Museum
Venue: M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Venue: The Art Institute of Chicago
Title: Exiles and Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler
Date: February 23, 1997 - January 4, 1998
Venue: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Venue: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Venue: Neue Nationalgalerie
Title: Max Beckmann (1955)
Date: May 24, 1955 - November 1955
Venue: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Venue: Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Venue: Pasadena Art Institute
Title: Paintings and Drawings by Max Beckmann (1884-1950) from St. Louis Collections
Date: June 29 - July 31, 1956
Venue: City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Title: Max Beckmann: Exile in Amsterdam
Date: April 6, 2007–January 28, 2008
Venue: Van Gogh Museum
Venue: Pinakothek der Moderne
Title: Max Beckmann In Exile
Date: October 6, 1997 - January 5, 1997
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Publication History
Title: Max Beckmann in Exile
Year Published: 1996
Title: Max Beckmann's triptychs and the simultaneous stage of the 20's
Periodical Title: Art History
Author: Gandelman, Claude
Title: Max Beckmann
Publisher: Haus der Kunst, München
Title: Max Beckmann
Author: Peter Selz
Title: Max Beckmann
Year Published: 1955
Title: Max Beckmann: A Dream of Life
Editor: Zentrum Paul Klee
Title: Max Beckmann at the Saint Louis Art Museum: The Paintings
Author: Lynette Roth
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Publisher: Prestel-Verlag
Title: Beckmann: His Recent Work from 1939 to 1945
Year Published: 1946
Title: Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May
Author: M.B. McNamee, S.J.
Title: Max Beckmann
Publisher: Galleria Nazionale d' Arte Moderna, Roma
Title: Max Beckmann
Publisher: Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels
Title: Max Beckmann: Von Angesicht zu Angesicht
Editor: Susanne Petri
Editor: Hans-Werner Schmidt
Title: Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde
Author: Erhard Göpel
Author: Barbara Göpel
Title: Bad News of the Psyche
Periodical Title: The New York Times
Author: Hilton Kramer
Title: Max Beckmann: Zeichnungen aus dem Nachlass Mathilde Q. Beckmann
Editor: Herwig Guratzsch
Title: Max Beckmann
Author: Stephan Lackner
Title: Max Beckmann: 14 Gemälde
Publisher: Kunsthalle Bremen
Title: The Morton D. May Collection of 20th Century German Masters
Year Published: 1970
Title: Expressionisten: Sammlung Morton D. May
Publisher: Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts
Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Handbook of the Collections
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Max Beckmann in Amsterdam
Periodical Title: Jong Holland
Author: Cornelia Homburg
Title: Max Beckmann's Triptychs
Author: Charles S. Kessler
Title: Max Beckmann, Musée National d'Art Moderne
Year Published: 1968
Title: The German Expressionists: A Generation in Revolt
Author: Bernard Samuel Myers
Title: German Expressionist Paintings From the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Morton D. May
Edition: 2
Year Published: 1960
Title: Max Beckmann: Memories of a Friendship
Year Published: 1969
Title: Max Beckmann, 1884-1950: Paintings, Drawings, and Graphic Work
Year Published: 1965
Title: Max Beckmann Retrospective
Editor: Carla Schulz-Hoffmann
Editor: Judith Weiss Levy
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Author: James D. Burke
Author: Peter Eikemeier
Title: Max Beckmann: Meisterwerke 1907-1950
Publisher: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Author: Karin von Maur
Title: German Expressionist Paintings From the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May
Edition: 1
Year Published: 1960
Title: Max Beckmann: The Triptychs
Year Published: 1980
Title: Max Beckmann in Amerika
Author: Anabelle Kienle
Title: Malerei des Expressionismus: eine Generation im Aufbruch
Author: Bernard Samuel Myers
Title: Max Beckmann: Leben im Werk, die Selbstbildnisse
Author: Fritz Erpel
Title: Max Beckmann in Amsterdam
Periodical Title: Jong Holland
Author: Cornelia Homburg
Title: Max Beckmann: Symbol und Weltbild, Grundriss zu einer Deutung des Gesamtwerkes
Author: Friedhelm W. Fischer
Title: Max Beckmann
Year Published: 1949
Title: Max Beckmann: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen
Publisher: Kunstverein Hamburg
Title: Max Beckmanns Strand- und Meeres-Gemalde bis zur Emigration nach Amsterdam 1937
Periodical Title: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte
Author: Dietrich Schubert
Title: Max Beckmann: 1884-1940, die neuen Triptychen
Author: Stephan Lackner
Title: Max Beckmann, Fernand Leger: Unerwartete Begegnungen
Year Published: 2005
Title: Max Beckmann : der Maler seiner Zeit
Author: Uwe Schneede
Title: Modern German Masterpieces
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: Charles W. Haxthausen
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Expressionism: A Generation in Revolt
Year Published: 1963
Title: Max Beckmann: Exile in Amsterdam
Publisher: Pinakothek der Moderne
Publisher: Van Gogh Museum
Title: European Masters of Our Time
Publisher: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Title: Contemporary Painters
Author: James Thrall Soby
Title: Max Beckmann: Die Triptychen im Städel
Year Published: 1981
Title: Max Beckmann
Year Published: 1984
Title: Recent Acquisitions at The Saint Louis Art Museum
Periodical Title: Burlington Magazine
Publisher: The Burlington Magazine
Title: German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Mr. Morton D. May
Year Published: 1967
Title: Modern German Masterpieces from the Saint Louis Art Museum
Publisher: North Carolina Museum of Art
Title: Beckmann
Year Published: 2002
Permalink to this object