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A Balancing Act: Max Beckmann and Post-War American Cultural Politics

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A Balancing Act: Max Beckmann and Post-War American Cultural Politics

Ohlinger, Marie Elisabeth (2016) A Balancing Act: Max Beckmann and Post-War American Cultural Politics. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Max Beckmann, one of the most significant German artists of the 20th century, immigrated to the United States in 1947 and entered into the last — but nevertheless productive — stage of his life. After ten years of isolation in Amsterdam exile, due to his denouncement as a “cultural Bolshevist” by the German National Socialist Party, the painter was finally able to work, exhibit and sell his art once again. He taught at Washington University in St. Louis and at the Brooklyn Museum School in New York City.
Despite declining health and financial insecurities, Beckmann travelled through large parts of the United States and accepted opportunities to speak about art on several occasions. In these speeches, Max Beckmann never returned to the explicit and programmatic messages so characteristic of his statements from the Weimar era. However, his reversion to active engagement as a teacher and speaker in his new cultural environment stood in stark contrast to his abstinence from stylistically or politically positioning himself during the reign of the National Socialists.
Even though Beckmann avoided taking an unequivocal stance concerning the cultural politics of the past which had affected his art, that avoidance or refusal cannot be ascribed to a lack of interest in or awareness of the political and cultural developments in postwar America. Indeed, upon closer examination, Beckmann’s activities and connections in the United States place him decisively within a large and influential network of intellectuals, curators and artists, many of them entangled as protagonists in the developing discourses ensuing of the cultural Cold War. As such and as has not been foregrounded in the scholarship on the artist, his restraint is indeed indicative of Beckmann’s acute insight into the emerging bipolar power structures of the Cold War conflict, with its attacks on certain “isms” in art, and his strategy to maneuver the increasing hegemony of Abstract Expressionism in the United States, both of which had serious repercussions for politicized art and artists.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Ohlinger, Marie Elisabeth
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:15 December 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Dr. MacKenzie, Catherine and Dr. Pezolet, Nicola
ID Code:982148
Deposited By: MARIE ELISABETH MCNAMARA
Deposited On:05 Jun 2017 15:54
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:54
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