Beckmann often represented himself in disguise or costumed to express his own view that life is a series of roles to be played. In this late self-portrait, the artist seems to have shed disguise: unsmiling, he stands plainly dressed, close behind an easel. The figure is rendered in the strong black outlines characteristic of Beckmann’s rather flat painting style. Tight space presses in around the figure, conveying a claustrophobic sense that underscores Beckmann’s physical presence and close proximity. His gaze is challenging, but it also creates a sense of immediacy in its directness.
Artist Max Beckmann, German, 1884-1950
  • Self Portrait in Olive and Brown
Date 1945
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 23 3/4 × 19 5/8 inches (60.3 × 49.8 cm)
Framed: 31 5/8 × 27 1/4 × 2 3/8 inches (80.3 × 69.2 × 6 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Robert H. Tannahill
Accession Number 55.410
Department European Modern Art to 1950
On View Modern N230.2, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, lower right: Beckmann, A 45
1955-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Max Beckmann Paintings from 1939-1946. Exh. cat.,Buchholz Gallery. New York, 1946, no. 12.

Max Beckmann. Exh. cat., Albright Art Gallery. Buffalo, 1947, no. 8.

Max Beckmann. Exh. cat., Benno Reifenberg and Wilhelm Wausenstein. Munich, 1949, no. 566 (pl. 74).

European Masters of Our Time. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, 1957, no. 7.

Max Beckmann. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, 1964, no. 59.

Bulletin of the DIA 35, 1 (1955-1956): pp. 18-19 (ill.).

Gehardus, M. and D. Expressionismus. Freiburg, Germany, 1976, p. 107, no. 73 (ill.).

Uhr, Horst. Masterpieces of German Expressionism at the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1982, p. 44 (ill.).

Zenser, Hildegard. Max Beckmann: Selbstbildnisse. Munich, 1984, p. 151 (pl. 51).

Zenser, Hildegard. Max Beckman. Munich (fig. 50).

Masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Exh. cat., Bunkamura Museum of Art. Tokyo, 1989, no. 85 (ill.).

Rainbird, Sean, ed. Max Beckmann. Exh. cat., Musee National d'Art Moderne. Paris, 2002, p. 237.

Cumming, Robert. ART A Field Guide. New York, 2001, p. 27 (ill.).