Max Beckmann is the bad boy of modern art. Though few would question his historical position, many an educated taste has objected to the truculence, harsh linearity, and unappealing surfaces of his art. The current retrospective in St. Louis should serve as a corrective to this view.1 The show is especially strong in the works created by Beckmann during his nearly three decades in Frankfurt. Arriving there fresh from the Western Front, where he’d made many drawings of carnage and mayhem, he felt indisposed to take up the gory history painting that had won him renown before the First World War. By degrees he turned instead toward pictures that were often medium-sized, personal in nature, and almost French in delicacy of color and handling. In so doing he arrived at a quieter art that was...


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