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Young Men by the Sea

Max Beckmann, German, 1884–1950
Oil on canvas
Made in
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, Europe
Current Location
On View, Gallery 216
75 3/8 x 39 1/2 in. (191.5 x 100.3 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Object Number
Four men gather at the seashore on a small strip of sand. Their statuesque bodies and ornamented wraps evoke figures from antiquity. The beach setting, the flute played by one of the men and what is likely a flagon of wine in the hands of another, suggest ritualistic revelry. Any sense of gaiety is dampened, however, by the painting's somber tones and the rigid clustering of the men's bodies within the narrow space of the canvas. The tightly crossed arms of the central figure underscore the isolation despite the improbable proximity of all four men. In 1947, just two months before he emigrated permanently to the United States, Beckmann received an anonymous poem about the painting from a sender in Saint Louis. The artist expressed surprise at the rightness of the interpretation in which the central figure, described as a mystic, speaks, saying, "The sea and the shore and the sky and we, shall never be bound, nor ever set free."
Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Amsterdam, The Netherlands [1]

- 1946
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York, NY, USA, purchased from the artist [2]

1946/03/13 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Buchholz Gallery [3]

[1] Max Beckmann kept lists of most of his paintings which often included the dates that they were worked on. This painting appears on Beckmann's Amsterdam list with a note that says he completed the painting on December 12, 1942 [Göpel, Erhard and Barbara Göpel. "Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde." Bern: Kornfeld & Cie., 1976, cat. no. 629].

[2] The Bucholz Gallery bill of sale recording the sale of "Young Men by the Sea" to the Saint Louis Art Museum states that the gallery acquired the painting from the artist [SLAM document files].

[3] Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, March 7, 1946.
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