Sale: 545 / Evening Sale, Dec. 08. 2023 in Munich Lot 49


Max Beckmann
Drahtseilbahn in Baden-Baden (Bergbahn in Colorado), 1937/1949.
Oil on canvas
€ 700,000 / $ 756,000
€ 889,000 / $ 960,120

(incl. surcharge)
Drahtseilbahn in Baden-Baden (Bergbahn in Colorado). 1937/1949.
Oil on canvas.
MB-G 790. Signed in upper right. Titled "Bergbahn" on the reverse. 80.5 x 50.5 cm (31.6 x 19.8 in). [CH].
In January 2024, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag will open an extensive exhibition on Max Beckmann and his treatment of space and perspective. There is interest in contacting the buyer in order to obtain the work on loan for the exhibition.
• The world coming apart - an extreme composition in dramatic times.
• Fateful year 1937: Immediately after the work was made at the peak of his political defamation, Max Beckmann left Germany.
• Cataclysmic depiction of a troubled mind: A toppled horizon and a downhill ride with an inward look.
• Started in Germany as one of his last paintings, exhibited in Switzerland as early as 1938 and completed in the USA in 1949 - departure and new beginning in one composition.
• From a picture of fate to a picture of hope: with the landscape in background worked over in 1949, the artist created a positive prospect

PROVENANCE: Mathilde "Quappi" Beckmann (1904-1986), New York (artist's wife, inerited from the artist in 1950).
Buchholz Gallery - Curt Valentin, New York (on consignment, with the typographically inscribed gallery label on the stretcher).
Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York (with the hand-inscribed gallery label on the stretcher).
Helen Serger (Galerie La Boétie, Inc.), New York (acquired in 1972)
Galerie Thomas, Munich (acquired in 1973, with the hand-inscribed gallery label on the stretcher).
Private collection North Rhine-Westphalia.
Ever since family-owned.

EXHIBITION: Max Beckmann, Kunsthalle Bern, February 19 - March 20, 1938, cat. no. 38, p. 5 (titled "Bergbahn").
Max Beckmann, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, April 3 - May 8, 1938, cat. no. 38, p. 20 (titled "Bergbahn").
Max Beckmann, Galerie Aktuaryus, Zürich and Galerie Betty Thommen, Basel, 1938.
Max Beckmann. Recent work, Buchholz Gallery - Carl Valentin, New York,
October 18 - November 5, 1949, cat. no. 2 (titled "Cable Car").
Max Beckmann, Chicago Art Center, Chicago, March 3 - April 1, 1955.
Beckmann. Exhibition of Paintings, Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York, November 1 - November 26, 1955.
Max Beckmann. Exhibition of Paintings 1925-1950, Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York,
January 9 - January 27, 1962, cat. no. 6 (with full-page illu. and the title "Cable Car").

LITERATURE: Benno Reifenberg and Wilhelm Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich 1949, cat. no. 380 (titled "Drahtseilbahn bei Baden-Baden").
Barbara Göpel and Eberhard Göpel, Max Beckmann. Katalog der Gemälde, vol. 1 and 2, Bern 1976, cat. no. 790.

Erhard Göpel (ed.), Max Beckmann, Tagebücher 1940-1950 (compiled by Mathilde Q. Beckmann, Munich 1984, p. 332 (June 2, 4 and 5, 1949).
Stephan von Wiese, Max Beckmann. Briefe 1925-1937, vol. II, Munich/Zürich 1994, p. 456, note no. 657.
Uwe M. Schneede, Konstruktion einer 'neuen Realität'. Max Beckmanns Bildmittel,
in: ex. cat. Max Beckmann. Landschaft als Fremde, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg 1998, pp. 19-26.
Ex. cat. Max Beckmann in Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden 2005, p. 74 (fig., p. 75).
Françoise Forster-Hahn, Max Beckmann in Kalifornien. Exil, Erinnerung und Erneuerung, Berlin 2007, pp. 17ff. (fig., p. 18).
Stefana Sabin, "Und bin damit gewissermassen schon halber Amerikaner". Beckmann zwischen ideeller Anpassung und realer Isolation, in: ex. cat. Beckmann & Amerika, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main 2011/2012, p. 58 and p. 184 (fig., no. 110, p. 184).
Anja Tiedemann (ed.), Max Beckmann. Die Gemälde, vol. 2, Ahlen 2021, cat. no. 790, p. 465 (with illu.).
Erhard u. Barbara Göpel / Anja Tiedemann: Max Beckmann. Catalogue Raisonné der Gemälde - [last visited on September 13, 2023].
Françoise Forster-Hahn, Unterwegs-Sein zwischen Zeiten und Orten. Max Beckmann, "Heimatgefühl im Kosmos" und die Dialektik des Exils, in: ex. cat. Max Beckmann. Departure, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich 2022, p. 90.
Oliver Kase, Fenster, in: ex. cat. Max Beckmann. Departure, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich 2022, pp. 105-109.

"It is a painting made at the tipping point between memory and expectation, between sunset and sunrise, between the past and the hope for the beginning of a new, more relaxed life."

Mayen Beckmann on the work offered here.

"Tiger [Max Beckmann] back to work in the afternoon, I picked him up, had completed a new painting, reworked the earlier 'Bergbahn'."
Mathilde Q. Beckmann, diary entry of June 5, 1949, quoted from: Barbara and Erhard Göpel, Max Beckmann. Die Gemälde (Katalog und Documentation), ed. by. Hans Martin von Erffa, Munich 2021, vol. II, p. 465.

Max Beckmann was a traveler throughout his life, and he eternalized many of the places he visited in his paintings. In 2024, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag presents an exhibition dedicated to the pictorial creation of space in Beckmann's work. Pictorial space, so the thesis, is, above all, the "space of imagination" in Beckmann's work. To what extent is this idea relevant in "Bergbahn in Colorado"?

Max Beckmann painted this picture in his studio in Berlin after his last spa stay in Baden-Baden, nevertheless, he was still in poor condition. He wasn't doing well physically and mentally, as the international audience had given way to powerful Third Reich protagonists that had become financially strong, the future was uncertain. The Merkur mountain railway In Baden-Baden, one of the longest (almost 1.2 km) and steepest (maximum gradient of 54%) funiculars in Germany, had been in operation since 1913. After it was shut down for 12 years, it was put in operation again as a fully automated train in 1979 wieder in Betrieb In his painting, Max Beckmann depicts the inclined planes of the cable car and, seen from the center of the cabin, probably paints two people and, still visible in the background today, the fir trees of the Black Forest. It seems to be the last of the Baden-Baden landscapes, of which he had made several since 1935. It is not known what the picture originally looked like, since there are no respective photographs. In terms of colors, it must have been comparable to "Waldweg im Schwarzwald" from 1936 (G.440) and "Waldwiese im Schwarzwald" from 1936 (G.443).

Twelve years later, he was about to go on a first summer trip, also to a mountain range, of which Beckmann had already heard a lot. It feels like a whole different world, after war, exile, resettlement and other disruptions. The offer: Summer School in Colorado, back in the mountains. The way he imagined it - presumably much higher, vaster, more exotic. Before he left, he took the old picture and worked it over the way he imagined things would be like:

Leafless primeval trees, their ghostly white trunks illuminated by an cold light from an unknwon source. The two people, who perhaps already rode a cable car in Baden-Baden, and the steep rock are bathed in warm sunset light coming from the observer's direction. The woman closes her eyes, dreaming or glared, while the man is almost invisibly hidden in her shadow, stern. Far back in the window cutout, a steep, presumably added, light blue mountain rises into the colorful sky and the sun, which appears to be rising, creeps up from behind his shoulder. A few calligraphic birds and the sweeping black outline of the mountain add depth to the sky.

It is a painting made at the tipping point between memory and expectation, between evening and morning, between the past and the hope for the beginning of a new, more relaxed life! But he found a different reality. In Colorado, too, only pine trees grow on the mountain. There may have been a large and very modern exhibition of his paintings that attracted many people, but his students were only of moderate talent, teaching was laborious, earning low, and the high altitude was exhausting. However, on hikes and car rides, he was overwhelmed by the nature of the Rocky Mountains.

Baden-Baden 1937
"My dear little heart, it's still a bit cold, otherwise I'm already the 4th spa guest and Dr. Dengler was so happy with me that I can actually leave straight away. Blood pressure 140 (160 3 years ago) at the beginning. Perfect heart, and my swollen liver has improved. (must have lived healthy (he murmured approvingly)). Well, it's still pretty good, managed to sleep without Adalin the first night - so what should I do to be decently ill," wrote Max Beckmann to his wife Mathilde on March 16, 1937 from Baden-Baden to Amsterdam (Max Beckmann, Briefe, vol. II, 1925-1937, Munich 1995, no. 651). While Max Beckmann was in Baden-Baden for the fifth time since 1923, his wife spent her days with her sister Hedda in Amsterdam. She was living with the musician Valentijn Schoonderbeek, whom she married in June of 1945, and would play an important role in the Beckmann's emigration. It was only in 1928 that Mathilde accompanied her husband on a visit to the increasingly glamorous spa town. In 1935, 1936 and from March 15 to April 8, 1937, Beckmann stayed at Dr. Franz Dengler's rehabilitation clinic for orthopedics, psychosomatics and internal medicine/cardiology on his own. Especially in the years 1935 to 1937, the cure was aimed at counteracting feelings of an increasing isolation and personal threat. Since the National Socialists had dismissed him from his teaching post at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 1933, mistrust had grown and thoughts about his artistic future weighed heavily. Beckmann returned to Berlin and chose to live in seclusion. With regards to an exhibition announced for February 12, 1934, he asked his Munich gallerist Günther Franke to "refrain, if possible, from the exhibition, or to only exhibit a few very discreetly selected things. [...] I'm just taking a closer look at the state of things and I am in very good spirits and very well informed. But as I said. Don't put on an exhibition that causes unnecessary noise." (Max Beckmann, Briefe, no. 622). The 'Beckmann Hall', which had been set up by Ludwig Justi, director of the Berlin Nationalgalerie, at the Kronprinzenpalais, had already been taken down after his dismissal. Beckmann's last exhibition before his emigration took place at the private rooms of the then head of the Hamburg Art Association, Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt, in October 1936. In the present composition made in dramatic times, Beckmann symbolically shows us how much his world has come apart: a toppled horizon and a downhill ride with an averted, inward look. A mirror of the times, of his mental state!

"This is a madhouse with thousands of people who all came here in their tiny cars, as if this were paradise", Beckmann described the second Easter holiday at the spa town in 1937. "I escape into the woods, where there are still places I can be alone. - The short lunches & dinners are quite pleasantly filled with mediocre querulousness." (Max Beckmann, Briefe, no. 656) Beckmann describes something like a Baden-Baden feeling, goes for walks in the rain with an umbrella, makes excursions, attends spa concerts, goes to the casino, notes motifs that he intend to paint when back in Berlin: "Stourdza-Kapelle", "Golfplatz " and "Bergbahn”. "There is not much to report from here and a lot of other things are difficult to describe," Beckmann wrote about the idleness of the spa stay on March 25, 1937. Less than four months later, on July 19, 1937 - the day after Hitler's opening speech of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" (House of German Art) in Munich and on the day of the opening of the exhibition "Degenerate Art" at the Hofgarten Arcades of the Munich Residenz, where his works, paintings and prints were pilloried - the Beckmann couple left Germany for good. Immediately after Drahtseilbahn in Baden-Baden" was made at the peak of his political defamation, Max Beckmann left Germany.

The three above-mentioned paintings, which date back to Beckmann's last stay in Baden-Baden and which were executed in Berlin, were also among the goods shipped to Amsterdam. In addition to "Golfplatz" and a second version of the "Stourdza-Kapelle" placed between dark cypresses and bright yellow forsythia, the painting "Drahtseilbahn bei Baden-Baden" (Cable Car near Baden-Baden), which was renamed "Bergbahn in Colorado" (Mountain Railway in Colorado) after a later revision in Saint Louis in 1949, was also part of the shipment. Beckmann had sent a picture postcard of Baden- Baden's local mountain Merkur to his wife in 1936. A year later, this painting was part of the retrospective exhibition in Bern. With the later revision, the painter combined memories of his last stay in Baden-Baden with impressions of the mountain landscape in Boulder/Colorado, where he stayed and taught for a few weeks in the summer of 1949.

What a remarkable background story "Drahtseilbahn in Baden-Baden" has: Started in Germany as one of his last paintings, exhibited in Switzerland as early as 1938 and completed in the USA in 1949 - departure and new beginning in one composition.

Provenance I
The identification of the present painting with "Drahtseilbahn bei Baden-Baden, 1937" comes from a message from Mathilde 'Quappi' Beckmann to Barbara and Erhard Göpel, the authors of the first catalogue raisonné of paintings: "The picture, created in 1937, was considered completed by Max Beckmann in 1938; and was up for sale at the Bern exhibition in 1938 for 1,205 Francs". (Barbara and Erhard Göpel, Max Beckmann, Bern 1976, p. 479)

The Bern exhibition was organized by Käthe Rapoport von Poradain. The fashion journalist Käthe von Porada, née Magnus (Berlin 1891(?) - Antibes 1985), grew up in Berlin and came into contact with theater and literary circles as a young woman. Among her acquaintances were Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gerhart Hauptmann and Arthur Schnitzler. In 1911 she married the wealthy Viennese landowner Dr. Alfred Rapoport Edler von Porada and lived with him in Vienna. After their separation, she went back and forth between Vienna and Frankfurt am Main, where she finally found an apartment in 1924. Renting on Untermainkai 21, she was opposite Beckmann's abode with the Battenberg couple on the other side of the Main. She wrote fashion reports for the Frankfurter Zeitung and gained access to the circle around the editor Heinrich Simons, which included Thomas Mann and Max Beckmann. There are different accounts of where and when exactly Beckmann and Porada first met.

According to Porada's memories, she was present when Beckmann met his future wife Mathilde von Kaulbach at the house of the Motesiczky family in Vienna. (Marie-Louise von Motesiczky became Beckmann's master student in the mid-1920s.) Käthe von Porada would occupy an important role in the artist's life with great enthusiasm. In 1928, she moved to Paris to report about fashion for the publisher Ullstein-Verlag and the Frankfurter Zeitung. She turned out very useful for Beckmann, who was now regularly in Paris: she provided him with an apartment and a studio for his stays, helped him organize his daily life and, in 1930, introduced him to the influential poet and writer Philippe Soupault, who, contrary to the highly critical press in France, wrote a positive review of Max Beckmann on the occasion of the exhibition at Galerie de la Renaissance. In times of persecution and exile, von Porada was a reliable and loyal friend and helped the Beckmann couple prepare their move into exile in Amsterdam in 1937. Together with Stephan Lackner, American collector, author and friend of the artist, von Porada organized an extensive exhibition of Beckmann's works in Bern in 1938, which was then shown in Winterthur, Zurich and Basel. She was in contact with the artist's publishers and dealers, with I. B. Neumann in Berlin and Günther Franke in Munich. When a planned Beckmann show at the Alfred Poyet gallery in Paris was canceled shortly before the opening in 1939 for political reasons, Porada showed watercolors by the painter in her private apartment on Rue de la Pompe. And Käthe von Porada also gave a Beckmann painting on loan for the exhibition "Twentieth Century German Art" at London's New Burlington Galleries. With this politically motivated exhibition, English, French and German artists and art lovers protested against the defamation of German art by the Nazi regime in Munich in 1937. At the time, influential personalities such as the Zürich born Herbert Read, writer, philosopher and editor of The Burlington Magazine, the painter and art dealer Irmgard Burchard and the writer, collector and art critic Paul Westheim, who emigrated to Paris at the time, were behind the exhibition of around 300 works shown from July 7 to August 27, 1938. About half of the exhibits came from German emigrants and artists who were defamed as “degenerate” by the National Socialists. In order not to endanger the artists, the exhibition primarily showed loans from museums and private collections. On July 21, 1938, Max Beckmann gave his famous lecture "Meine Theorie der Malerei" (My Theory of Painting).

Mountain Railway in Colorado
After the exhibition tour, the painting "Drahtseilbahn bei Baden-Baden" (Cable Car near Baden-Baen) remained unsold and returned to Beckmann's studio, now in Amsterdam. Amsterdam was supposed to be just a stopover on the way to the United States; the idea of settling in Paris again after 1930 was shattered by the German invasion of France. It should take the artist ten years too before he finally got tickets for a crossing. Beckmann and his wife left Europe from Rotterdam on the 'Westerdam' on August 29, arriving New York September 8. He accepted an invitation to fill in for the American expressionist Philip Guston at the Art School of Washington University in St. Louis from the end of September to June 1949. The Beckmanns then went back to Amsterdam, where they had kept their apartment on Rokin 85 out of 'precaution'. In mid-September 1948, they finally sailed to New York and went on to St. Louis, where they remained until mid-June 1949. Beckmann received a teaching position at the Fine Art Department of the University of Colorado, in Boulder. He eventually settled in New York in September 1949 when he accepted a post in painting and drawing at the Art School of the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

According to a diary entry, the painting "Drahtseilbahn bei Baden-Baden" was worked over in St. Louis in preparation of the trip to Boulder. Boulder is high up in the mountains, at the foot of the Rockies. "There is no big difference between Boulder and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, except for the different, extraordinarily beautiful flowers. But life at a mountain university is quite amusing [...] and three times a week I teach 36 Americans desperate to learn about painting, it's all quite relaxing. I've been working incredibly hard in St. Louis and I'm taking a break here, so to speak, for which I'm also getting paid", reports Beckmann to the publisher Reinhard Pieper in Munich on June 19, 1949 (Max Beckmann, Briefe, no. 932).
Which parts and details did Beckmann change or add while he was still in St. Louis in the summer of 1949? He undoubtedly added the cool 'high mountain landscape' in the background, an anticipated homage to the famous Flatiron Rocks, which are popular with tourists for their snowy winters. Likewise, the white on the sturdy tree trunks appears to have been applied in St. Louis in order to intensify the impression of the snow and the cold of the Rocky Mountains. Likewise, the passenger's headgear, which may have been added or changed, also indicates, at least in this form, that a ride in a Rocky Mountain cable car can be quite cold. The closed eyes are undoubtedly an emotional expression, the gaze averted from the downhill journey into an uncertain illuminated by a setting sun - an idea of an uncertain future? Beckmann remained silent about this and mentions the revised version in his list of pictures: "St. Louis 1949 15 Bergbahn in Colo. 23 4 Juni". According to his journal, Beckmann worked on the “Drahtseilbahn bei Baden-Baden” in St. Louis on June 3, 4 and 5, 1949. While Barbara and Erhard Göpel assert that "Max Beckmann only made drawings in Boulder, but did not paint in oil" (Max Beckmann, Bern 1976, p. 301). In a certain way, Beckmann depicted his uncertain situation in this work: "a picture made at the the tipping point between memory and expectation, between sunset and sunrise, between the past and the hope that now a new, more relaxed life is actually about to begin!" (Mayen Beckmann) In other words, using the painter's means "to visualize the past so intensively," says Oliver Kase, art historian and curator of the Beckmann exhibition "Departure", about the theme of 'prospects' in Beckmann's paintings, "that it becomes alive and real. In contrast to windows, which create a sense of home, security, or at least happiness, Beckmann's startling depictions of train-, ship-, or car windows testify to an agitated, restless state in times of expectation and uncertainty, even of worry or anticipation. [...] shaking up the entire pictorial tectonics with an artifice. Beckmann took the Pullman luxury train "Flèche d'Or" - the Golden Arrow - to go from Paris to Marseille. The black silhouetted cathedral of the Flèche d'Or in the bright yellow triangle of the view from the window corresponds with the yellow newspaper "Marseille Grand" that is distorted to a parallelogram, which, in the horizontal arrangement above the water together with the vertical curtain that divides the window, is the only stabilizing element in the acute-angled distorted view. [Fig.] Black reflections on the water and thick clouds of steam or fog also obscure the view. Just as it is the case with 'Bergbahn in Colorado' (Göpel 790), Beckmann tried out a window-based pictorial architecture that is disconcerting and disturbing - we can't even say for sure whether the cathedral is Notre-Dame in Paris or the cathedral of Marseille -is it about departure or arrival." (Oliver Kase (HG), Max Beckmann, Departure, Munich 2022, p. 108) Accordingly, Max Beckmann also chose a close-up view that had become typical of his painting and at the same time was an extremely bold angle for his depiction of divergence, first in Baden-Baden and later in Colorado. With the changes applied in St. Louis more than 10 years later, a work-immanent invention turns out to be a finding, and its artistic creativity mixes with autobiographic aspects.

Provenance II
After Beckmann's death in New York on December 27, 1950, "Mountain Railway in Colorado" was in his estate. Before the painting that Beckmann mysteriously altered in St. Louis returned to Germany in the early 1970s, Mathilde Beckmann gave the work to the 'Beckmann gallerist' Curt Valentin (Buchholz Gallery), who had been working in New York since 1937, on consignment. The painting can also be proven for the first time on the occasion of an exhibition at another New York gallery that represented Beckmanm, Catherine Vivano's gallery, which existed from 1950 to 1970, in 1955, before Helen Serger, born in Silesia in 1901, took the "Bergbahn" for her gallery on the Upper East Side in 1972. Helen Serger primarily represented classical modern artists from France and Germany. [MvL]

Max Beckmann
Drahtseilbahn in Baden-Baden (Bergbahn in Colorado), 1937/1949.
Oil on canvas
€ 700,000 / $ 756,000
€ 889,000 / $ 960,120

(incl. surcharge)