Still Life with Saxophones, 1926

From 1925 onwards, Max Beckmann led a master’s studio at the Städel School. He began to work on this painting in February 1926 but only completed it five months later. The still life nevertheless makes the impression of having been executed rapidly, almost to the point of crudity. But don’t allow yourself to be deceived. The artist studied his subject in depth and composed his work in so subtle a manner that – characteristically for Beckmann – it virtually defies decipherment. Already the format alone is a conceptual decision. Beckmann needed the width in order to bring out important contrasts to best effect, for example the warm light at the left and the much cooler tones on the right. Jazz, for its part – the work’s actual theme – is conceived here as a synthesis of tensions created by antitheses – as a liaison of Africa and the U.S., man and woman, fervid emotion and hard rhythm and, naturally, light and dark. In true old master fashion he glazed the wall in the background with several layers, covering the black with white and yellow, and thus obtaining the shimmering “synthetic” texture. The painting came into the possession of the city of Frankfurt as early as 1927.

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018
Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Oil on canvas
85 × 195 cm
Inv. No. SG 1159

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