Max Beckmann's Family Portrait - Focus on a Masterpiece
19 June -26 September
This summer Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is showing the Portrait of the Lütjens Family in a unique setting. For the first time the work will be seen together with three recently acquired drawings, also by the painter Max Beckmann. The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam has lent another of his masterpieces, the self-portrait of Beckmann with his wife Quappi. This extraordinary presentation focuses on Beckmann’s years in the Netherlands.
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen acquired the striking Portrait of the Lütjens Family by the renowned twentieth-century painter Max Beckmann in early 2009. This month the museum will be showing this man-sized work, three drawings that were purchased in 2010, a group of preparatory sketches for the painting and a selection of Beckmann’s prints. The self-portrait of the artist with his wife Quappi will be exhibited alongside these works; it has been lent for the occasion by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. The exhibition ‘Max Beckmann’s Family Portrait – A Masterpiece Explained’ focuses on a single painting, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to see this group of works together.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen already owned a number of prints by Beckmann, but no paintings or drawings. The new acquisitions are an essential addition to the museum’s collection of classic modern works. The work by Beckmann is wholly in keeping with the selection of international Expressionist and Realist works by European artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Edward Munch, Franz Marc and Alexei Jawlensky.
Max Beckmann painted the portrait of the art dealer Helmuth Lütjens and his family in the last year of the Second World War. The couple and their little daughter did not pose for the painting. He portrayed them in quick pencil sketches, which he then transformed into a composition he conceived in his imagination. Despite the monumental size, the picture seems intimate because we see the life-size figures at close quarters. The work is a testimony to the strong bond of friendship between the Beckmanns and the Lütjenses. Lütjens was extremely important to Beckmann. He concealed Beckmann’s paintings in his gallery and his appreciation of Beckmann’s work made him a mainstay during difficult times. On more than one occasion he also sheltered Beckmann and his wife in his home. Lütjens and his family led a plain, simple life, whereas Beckmann was keen to be seen as a man of the world. This contrast is evident in the two paintings.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is publishing a book in the Boijmans Studies series in English and Dutch, entirely devoted to this painting. Essays by eminent contributors focus on different aspects of the work. They examine the background to its creation, the historical circumstances in which it was made, the relationship to Beckmann’s other works and the materials he used. The book, Come on, now buy a Beckmann too! The Portrait of the Lütjens Family, is available in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (€ 25).
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen purchased the *Portrait of the Lütjens Family*thanks to a generous gesture by Lütjens’s heirs. The purchase was also made possible by contributions from the Rembrandt Society, the City of Rotterdam, the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, Marlene Dumas, The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Finance, the BankGiro Lottery, the VSBfonds, the SNS REAAL Fonds, the Mondrian Foundation, the Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht, the G. P. Verhagen Foundation, the Dutch National Art Fund, F.J. de Visser and the Nolst Trenité Family Foundation. The painting is jointly owned by the City of Rotterdam and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage. At the start of this year the three drawings, which can also be seen in this presentation, were purchased with funds from the Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht.
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