New York

Max Beckmann

MoMA QNS - Museum of Modern Art

“Curious that in every city I hear the lions roaring,” Max Beckmann noted in his diary in 1947, a few days after reaching New York from Amsterdam, where he had spent the war years in exile from his native Germany. Whatever the remark means, it reminds us that Beckmann loved the circus and identified with the big cats. In his 1940 painting In the Circus Wagon, two soulful tigers cower in a cage while a stern Beckmann, centered in the blaze of a lamp, reads the paper and hunkers over his own prey, an odalisque in pink resembling his wife. He dares the tigers to interrupt him, but he wouldn’t be half so macho without that nearby tamer keeping guard in his impressive uniform. It’s Beckmann’s classic persona, growling and grimacing and mocking himself all the while.

Beckmann is back at MoMA after almost forty years, and this time it took a team of curators to tame him: Robert Storr of NYU and

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