Fresh from a press preview of the Max Beckmann retrospective at MOMA, Queens,[1] I was extolling the virtues of the show to a friend I am very fond of, someone whose fierce intelligence and astonishingly well-furnished mind always delight me. Our tastes often overlap, so I was startled when my enthusiasm was met by a laconic “I don’t like Beckmann.” (We quickly began talking about something else.) Earlier that day, a colleague at the preview had announced his indifference to the painter, but I’d dismissed it, since I’ve never been impressed by this critic’s eye. Yet at the same event, the show’s curator, Robert Storr—an ardent admirer of Beckmann and, to judge by the exhibition’s notably intelligent selection, someone who really “gets” him—had described the painter as “difficult to like,” in constrast to...


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