Art News

The Kunstmuseum Basel to Showcase Max Beckman’s Landscapes

artwork: Max Beckmann - "Der Hafen von Genua", 1927 - Oil on canvas - Collection ot the St Louis Art Museum. - © ProLitteris, Zürich. On view at the Kunstmuseum Basel in "Max Beckman - The Landscapes" from September 4th until January 22nd 2012.

Basel, Switzerland.- The Kunstmuseum Basel is proud to present “Max Beckman – The Landscapes” on view from September 4th through January 22nd 2012. Max Beckmann (Leipzig 1884 – 1950 New York) is one of the titans of modernism, even though he saw himself as the last Old Master. He never joined any of the avant-garde groups of the twentieth century, but the experiences of Impressionism, Expressionism, New Objectivity, and abstract art left their traces in his oeuvre. Beckmann was long perceived as a typically German artist, and only in the past few years has his importance been fully appreciated on the international stage, with retrospectives in Paris, London, and New York. Against the modernist tendency to dissolve the traditional genres, Beckmann remained a lifelong defender of classical genres: the depiction of the human figure—in the form of portraits, mythological tableaus, and acts—the still life, and the landscape. Famous as a painter of the human condition, he also renewed the genre of landscape painting with outstanding and haunting works that are virtually without equal in twentieth-century art.

artwork: Max Beckmann - "Das Nizza in Frankfurt am Main", 1921 Oil on canvas - 100.5 x 65 cm. Collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel. - © ProLitteris, Zürich. The comprehensive special exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel now turns the focus on the artist’s oeuvre in landscapes, showing seventy paintings, among them masterpieces such as “The Harbor of Genoa” from the St. Louis Art Museum and the “Seashore” from the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, but also sublime works from numerous private collections, some of which have rarely been on public display. Beckmann’s landscapes allow the beholder to trace the development of his art in its purest form. Less shaped by allegorical layers of meaning, they directly reveal his magnificent qualities as a painter. Beckmann’s reserved view of the landscape remains striking: vistas framed by windows, curtains, parapets, columns, and elevated vantage points often mediate the distance between the inhabited world and the boundless expanses of nature.

Private objects from Beckmann’s possessions frequently appear in the foregrounds of these landscapes as vestiges of the still life, giving the beholder a sense of the painter’s presence. The dramaturgy of these vistas is evidence that Beckmann fuses an abstractly conceived image of the landscape with the recollection of the impression he received from a particular scenery that is the foundation of each painting. The gaze he fixes on nature helps clarify his standpoint and places him in a relationship with the world. Landscapes from different phases of his life – Beckmann’s fresh start in Frankfurt after World War I or the years he spent in exile in Amsterdam – illustrate how this relationship evolves.

The history of Basel’s public art collection can be traced back to the 17th century. When it acquired the Amerbach Kabinett, Basel became the first municipality to possess its own art collection long before princely collections were made accessible to the public in other cities of Europe. On the death of Basilius Amerbach (1533-1591), grandson of the famous printer and son of a distinguished lawyer who had been a close friend of Erasmus, the encyclopaedic collection contained not only some 60 paintings (among them 15 by Hans Holbein the Younger) and a very large portfolio of drawings and prints, but natural objects, ethnographic artefacts and a library as well. In 1671 the art collection was transferred to the “Zur Mücke” house near the Cathedral Square and opened to the public, becoming one of the city’s major attractions. In 1823 the Amerbach art collection, which had already been enhanced by donations from the Council and private donors, was merged with the holdings of as second museum started by jurist Remigius Faesch (1595-1667). This brought not only further paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger, but also important works by 15th to17th century artists from the Upper-Rhine region into the collection. In 1849, the need for more display space resulted in a move to the late classicist, multi-purpose building by Melchior Berri in Augustinergasse (which still houses the Museum of Natural History and the Museum today). A bequest by Samuel Birrmann (1793-1843), a Basel painter and art dealer, helped to introduce an acquisition policy, and in 1855 a fund earmarked for contemporary Swiss art was established under the aegis of the Museum Commission.

artwork: Max Beckmann - "Schiphol", 1945 - Oil on canvas - 60 x 89 cm. - Collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen. © ProLitteris, Zürich. -  On view at the Kunstmuseum Basel until January 22nd 2012.

The Canton of Basel-Stadt, too, has been providing acquisition funding since 1903. With the completion of a purpose-built building by architects Rudolf Christ and Paul Bonatz in St. Alban-Graben, the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung moved into the Kunstmuseum Basel in its present form in 1936. The building has been thoroughly refurbished over the past few years. For additional display space The Museum für Gegenwartskunst was established in a converted factory at St. Alban-Rheinweg in 1980. A joint venture with the Emanuel Hoffmann and Christoph Merian Foundations, many more recent works were transferred from the Kunstmuseum to the new museum. Never content to stand still, the next great challenge for the Kunstmuseum is implementing a planned expansion. This new building, will be located opposite the museum, is intended to be a special exhibition area offering the visitor a constantly new experience. Much remains to be done before the projected opening date of 2015, but its completion will be the latest chapter in this museum’s long tradition of re-invention and growth.

artwork: Max Beckmann - "Riviera-Landschaft mit Felsen", 1942 - Oil on canvas - 55.5 x 96 cm. - Private collection. © ProLitteris, Zürich. -  On view at the Kunstmuseum Basel in "Max Beckman" until January 22nd 2012.

The Kunstmuseum Basel houses the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland, particularly Upper-Rhenish and Flemish paintings and drawings from 1400 to 1600 and 19th to 21st century international art. The museum has the world’s largest collection of works by the Holbein family. Other highlights of the fifthteenth and sixteenth century are paintings by Konrad Witz, Hans Fries, Hans Baldung (called Grien), Niklaus Manuel (called Deutsch), Lucas Cranach the Elder and outstanding works by the Upper-Rhenish Masters of the fifthteenth and sixteenth century as well as Flemish art of the sixteenth century. The main features of the seventeenth and eighteenth century are the Flemish and Dutch schools (Rubens, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Frans Francken, Rembrandt, Jacob Ruisdael), German and Dutch still lifes (Wilhelm Claesz Heda, Georg Flegel, Sebastian Stoskopff) and an important group of paintings by the Swiss artist Caspar Wolf. The Kunstmuseum also owns the worldwide largest collection of paintings by Arnold Böcklin. Noteworthy in the nineteenth century collection are the most comprehensive group of Nazarene paintings in Switzerland including works by Koch, Overbeck, and Olivier, important assemblages of works by Füssli, French painting from Romanticism to Realism including Delacroix, Géricault, Corot and Courbet. Swiss art of Birmann, Calame, Anker, Zünd, Buchser, Segantini and Hodler. German art with Feuerbach and Marées and especially French Impressionism with works of art by Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Postimpressionism represented by Cézanne, Gauguin and van Gogh. The museum also has 8 sculptures by Rodin. The focal points of 20th-century art on display are Cubism, Expressionism and American art after 1945, including the unique compilation of works by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Paul Klee, Hans Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall, Barnett Newman, Joseph Beuys, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella and Bruce Nauman. In January 2005, the Library of the Kunstmuseum Basel moved into a building directly adjacent to the Kunstmuseum. Formerly home to premises of the Swiss National Bank, the building was donated to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel by Maja Oeri in 1999 and bears the name “Laurenz-Bau”, in memory of the prematurely deceased son of the donor and her husband. Apart from the library, the building also houses the administrative offices of the Kunstmuseum and the Department of Art History of Basel University. The Library, which is open to the public, contains over 150,000 titles. Visit the museum’s website at …