The Actors
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1955.174.A-C
People
Max Beckmann, German (Leipzig, Germany 1884 - 1950 New York, N.Y., USA)
Title
The Actors
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Schauspieler
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1941-1942
Culture
German
Location
Level 1, Room 1330, Modern and Contemporary Art
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
left panel: 199.4 x 83.7 cm (78 1/2 x 32 15/16 in.)
center panel: 199.4 x 150 cm (78 1/2 x 59 1/16 in.)
right panel: 199.4 x 83.7 cm (78 1/2 x 32 15/16 in.)
framed: 207.33 x 92.39 x 6.35 cm (81 5/8 x 36 3/8 x 2 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: Beckmann A 42
Provenance
[Buchholz Gallery, New York, New York (1946-47)], sold; to Lois Orswell, Pomfret Center, Connecticut, (1947-1955), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1955.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Lois Orswell
Copyright
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Accession Year
1955
Object Number
1955.174.A-C
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
As the lead in a three-part drama, Beckman wears the costume of a king, and strides solemnly forward as he plunges a knife into his heart. The main supporting roles, visualized in the left and right side panels, are played by a figure who "could be Christ today" (Beckmann's words) confronted by a brutish soldier, and a prostitute, gazing into a looking-glass and sitting in a room with a large classicizing Janus head whose highlighted side has the profile of a philosopher. Below stage, various more or less directly related activities enlarge and reinforce the main themes, all of which have to do with aspects of good and evil, taken partly from Beckmann's own experiences, partly from contemporary events.
Publication History

Max Beckmann Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, MO, 1948), no. 30, repr. pp. 68-69; checklist p. 96

Max Beckmann, Tagebücher 1940-1950, A. Langen-G. Müller (Munich, Germany, 1955), see May 1941-July 1942

Charles Scott Chetham, [Unidentified article], Fogg Art Museum Annual Report 1955-1956, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1956), pps. 54, 62-64, reproduced in b/w p. 55

Stephan Lackner, Max Beckmann 1884-1950 Die Neun Triptychen, Im Safari-Verlag (Berlin, Germany, 1965), pps. 16-19, reproduced in color p. 17

Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT, 1967), n.p.

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat.. 41

Charles S. Kessler, Max Beckmann's Triptychs, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1970), pps. 51-62, 99, 106; reproduced in color facing p. 51

Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), p. 20, repr.

Laszlo Glozer, Westkunst: Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, exh. cat., DuMont (Cologne, Germany, 1981), reproduced in b/w no. 36, p. 343

Max Beckmann: The Triptychs, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery (London, England, 1981), reproduced in color opposite p. 46 and color detail p. 17; text, p. 17-18

Charles Werner Haxthausen, ed., Deutsche Kunst des 20. jahrhunderts aus dem Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1983), reproduced in b/w XI 8, p. 219

Carla Hoffmann-Schulz and Judith C. Weitz, ed., Max Beckmann: Retrospective, exh. cat., St. Louis Art Museum and Prestel-Verlag (St. Louis, MO and Munich, Germany, 1984), reproduced, fig. 20, p. 43; detail, fig. 8, p. 125

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 382, p. 319, repr. in b/w

Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, exh. cat., Abbeville Press/Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, 1985), reproduced in color fig. 97, p. 102

Von Heinz Jatho, Max Backmann: Schauspieler-Triptychon, Insel Verlag (Baden-Baden, 1989), Fold-out color ill. in back

Max Beckmann in Exile, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum Publications (New York, NY, 1996), detail on cover; central panel p. 63; full repro. cat. no. 11; credits, p. 143.

Reinhard Spieler, Max Beckmann: Bildwelt und Weltbilt in den Triptychen, DuMont Buchverlag (Cologne, Germany, 1998), pp. 26-27, ill. (color)

Pia Gottschaller, "Max Beckmann: His Painting Materials and Technique" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1998), Unpublished, pp. 1-33 passim

Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 5, fig. 20; pp. 48-49 (repr. color), 306, 374

Sean Rainbird, ed., Max Beckmann, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York, 2003), cat. no. 107, pp. 200-201, color ill.

Beatrice von Bormann, Max Beckmann in Amsterdam 1937-1947, exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, 2007), pp. 53, 56

Pinakothek der Moderne, ed., Max Beckmann: Exile in Amsterdam, exh. cat., Hatje Cantz Verlag (Munich, 2007), p. 52, fig. 12

Deborah Schultz and Edward Timms, Politics and Pictorial Narrative in the Nazi Period: Autobiographical motifs in the paintings of Felix Nussbaum, Taylor and Francis Group (2008), p. 245, fig. 21

Peter Chametzky, Objects as History in Twentieth Century German Art: Beckmann to Beuys, University of California Press (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2010), pp. 26-27, ill. (black and white)

Susanne Petri and Hans-Werner Schmidt, Max Beckmann: Von Angesicht zu Angesicht, exh. cat., Hatje Cantz and Museum der bildenden Kunste Leipzig (Leipzig, Germany, 2011), pp. 38-41, ill.

William Feaver, "Max Beckmann's Theatre of Disguises and Burlesques", Art News (March 1981), reproduced in b/w, p. 147

Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 410, repr. p. 409 as fig. 6 [all three parts of triptych]

Exhibition History

Unidentified Exhibition, Buchholz Gallery, 1946, Buchholz Gallery, New York, 01/01/1946 - 12/31/1946

20th Century Abstract Painting and Sculpture, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, 04/16/1947 - 05/18/1947

Max Beckmann Retrospective Exhibition, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 05/01/1948 - 05/31/1948

Max Beckmann Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 02/23/1956 - 05/19/1956

Max Beckmann, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 03/12/1965 - 04/11/1965; Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg, 05/10/1965 - 07/04/1965; Kunstverein Frankfurt, Frankfurt, 07/15/1965 - 09/09/1965; Tate Gallery, London, 09/25/1965 - 11/08/1965; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 10/01/1964 - 11/15/1964; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 12/14/1964 - 01/31/1965

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967

Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967

Max Beckmann 1884-1950: The Triptychs, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 01/01/1981 - 02/28/1981; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 04/15/1981 - 06/21/1981; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 11/11/1980 - 12/31/1980

Beckmann Triptych, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 11/11/1980 - 12/31/1980

Contemporary Art since 1939, Museum of the City of Cologne, Cologne, 05/30/1981 - 08/16/1981

Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986

Hinter der Buhne (Backstage): Max Beckmann 1950, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, 07/20/1990 - 09/19/1990; Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 10/10/1990 - 01/13/1991

Max Beckmann in Exile, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 10/09/1996 - 01/15/1997

Max Beckmann, Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 06/25/2003 - 09/30/2003

Max Beckmann in Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 04/06/2007 - 08/19/2007; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munchen, 09/13/2007 - 01/27/2008

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Verification Level

4 - Best. Object is extensively researched, well described and information is vetted