The Beginning

Artist: Max Beckmann (German, Leipzig 1884–1950 New York)

Date: 1946–49

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: Overall: 69 in. × 125 1/2 in. (175.3 × 318.8 cm)
left (a): 65 in. × 33 1/2 in. (165.1 × 85.1 cm)
center (b): 69 × 59 in. (175.3 × 149.9 cm)
right (c): 65 in. × 33 1/2 in. (165.1 × 85.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876-1967), 1967

Accession Number: 67.187.53a-c

Rights and Reproduction: © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


As a child growing up in Leipzig, Germany, Beckmann was especially fond of illustrating imaginative journeys. In Beginning, Beckmann looks back to his childhood with fondness and humor. Completed in 1949 when the artist was sixty-five years old, the panels are autobiographical. Beckmann’s memories of his schooldays in Germany are balanced by a dream fantasy on the right and left panels, respectively. In the central panel, childhood memories and dreamworlds intermingle. Deeply impacted by both World Wars and his exile from Germany, Beckmann’s work typically integrates tragic themes with expressionistic brushwork and bright colors.