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A portrait of a standing man wearing a tuxedo.

The painting of a man wearing a tuxedo standing in front of a light gray wall. The left arm is bent at waist level, the hand holds a small white object between the fingers. The right arm is bent in a forty-degree angle, the hand on the right hip. The face is partly in shadow. The left side is black framed with brown, a larger light gray area fills the right side behind the figure.

Gallery Text

Beckmann debuted this now iconic self-portrait at the fifty-third exhibition of the Berlin Secession in 1928. For critics of the day, it upstaged the work of his contemporaries, like Otto Dix and Max Pechstein. “The effect is brutal,” wrote one reviewer, “but the work is surely in the spirit of the most recent art.” The perceived brutality referred less to the rawness of the subject’s direct gaze than to formal aspects of the painting’s execution: the thick application of pigment and the large planes of color, notably black. Half cast into deep shadow by an unseen light source, Beckmann’s face at close range resembles a mask. Known to frequent elite conservative circles, the artist easily dons the elegant attire and “mask” of the bourgeoisie, then launches his critique from within its own ranks. Despite his avowed distance from politics, over the next decade Beckmann increasingly used figurative allegories to comment on present-day circumstances.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Max Beckmann, German (Leipzig, Germany 1884 - 1950 New York, N.Y., USA)
Self-Portrait in Tuxedo
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Selbstbildnis im Smoking
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1520, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art in Germany Between the Wars
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
139.5 x 95.5 cm (54 15/16 x 37 5/8 in.)
framed: 151.4 x 105.7 x 4.4 cm (59 5/8 x 41 5/8 x 1 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r., Beckmann F. 27


Recorded Ownership History
Julius Meier-Graefe, sold; to National Gallery, Berlin, 1928, removed from the collection by the National Socialist (Nazi) authorities(EK14127), July, 1937; [Buchholz Gallery, Berlin]; [Buchholz Gallery, New York], sold; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1941.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Association Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Max Beckmann Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, MO, 1948), no. 17, checklist p. 95
  • Tendenzen der Zwanziger Jahre : [15. Europäische Kunstausstellung unter den Auspizien des Europarates : in der Neuen Nationalgalerie, der Akademie der Künste und der Grossen Orangerie des Schlosses Charlottenburg zu Berlin, vom 14. August bis zum 16. Okto, exh. cat., Dietrich Reimer Verlag (Berlin, 1977), pp. 4/49, 4/51, fig. 4/12, ill. (b/w)
  • Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 409, repr. p. 406 as fig. 2
  • Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), pp. 11, 19, repr. p. 19
  • Carla Hoffmann-Schulz and Judith C. Weitz, ed., Max Beckmann: Retrospective, exh. cat., St. Louis Art Museum and Prestel-Verlag (St. Louis, MO and Munich, Germany, 1984), pp. 6264, 149, 192, 238-239, 242, 272, 283, 456, fig. 16 (b/w), cat. no. 53, (color)
  • Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, pp. 46-47, fig. 34, ill. (color)
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 381, p. 318, repr.
  • Peter Nisbet and Emilie Norris, Busch-Reisinger Museum: History and Holdings, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1991), p. 60, ill.
  • Annegret Janda, Kunst in Deutschland 1905-1937, Die verlorene Sammlung der Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin, 1992), p. 81, fig. 17, ill. (b/w); also see p. 26 archival installation shot from 1933
  • James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 348-349, repr. color
  • Terry Sullivan, "Multiple Personalities: Self-Portraits in Series by Four Masters", American Art (September 1997), vol. 61, no. 662, p. 35
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Tobia Bezzola and Cornelia Homburg, Max Beckmann and Paris: Matisse Picasso Braque Léger Rouault, exh. cat., Taschen (Cologne, Germany, 1998), p. 17, cat. no. 5
  • Pia Gottschaller, "Max Beckmann: His Painting Materials and Technique" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1998), Unpublished, pp. 1-33 passim
  • Görel Cavalli-Björkman, ed., Face to Face: Portraits from Five Centuries, exh. cat., National Museum Stockholm (Stockholm, 2001), fig. no. 6, p. 30, b/w illus.
  • Beckmann: Centre Pompidou, exh. cat., Editions du Centre Pompidou (Paris, France, 2002), p. 225 and cover, color ill.
  • Sean Rainbird, ed., Max Beckmann, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art (New York, 2003), pp. 129, 156-158, 160-161, 272, 273, 287, cat. no. 88, ill. (color)
  • Shearer West, Portraiture, Oxford University Press (NY) and Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, 2004), fig. no. 110, b/w illus.
  • Stephen Diederich and Paola Malavassi, ed., Max Beckmann, Fernand Léger: Unerwartete Begegnungen, Museum Ludwig and DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag (Cologne, 2005), pp. 35-36, 294
  • Pinakothek der Moderne, ed., Max Beckmann: Exile in Amsterdam, exh. cat., Hatje Cantz Verlag (Munich, 2007), pp. 13-15, 20, 38, fig. 2, 5, ill. (color)
  • Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), pp. 1, 115
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 208, ill.
  • Barbara Buenger, Of 'Truths Impossible to Put into Words.' Max Beckmann Contextualized, ed. Rose-Carol Washton Long and Maria Makela, Peter Lang (New York, 2009), pp. 169-176, fig. 43, ill.
  • Jutta Schutt, ed., Beckmann and America, exh. cat., Städel Museum and Hatje Cantz (Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2011), pp. 58-59, ill.
  • Reinhard Spieler, Max Beckmann 1884-1950 The Path to Myth, Taschen GmbH (Cologne, Germany, 2011), pp. cover, 8-9, 74, 83, 87, ill. (color)
  • Susanne Petri and Hans-Werner Schmidt, Max Beckmann: Von Angesicht zu Angesicht, exh. cat., Hatje Cantz and Museum der bildenden Kunste Leipzig (Leipzig, Germany, 2011), pp. 13, 30-31, ill. (color), 60
  • Jeanette Pacher, ed., Rudolf Stingel: Secession, exh. cat., Revolver Publishing (Berlin, 2012), p. 24, ill. (black and white)
  • H. Harvard Arnason and Elizabeth Mansfield, History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography, Pearson Education, Inc. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2013), repr. as fig. 10.39 on p. 239
  • Diana Tuite, Brand-New and Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s, exh. cat., Colby College Museum of Art and DelMonico Books Prestel (Munich, London, New York, 2015), p. 30, fig. 13, ill. (color)
  • Joseph Koerner, Making Modernity: Max Beckmann's Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, Harvard Magazine (Cambridge, MA, 2015), pp. 44-47, pp. 44-47, ill. (color)
  • Lynette Roth, New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic 1919-1933, exh. cat., ed. Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and DelMonico Books Prestel (Munich, London, New York, 2015), pp. 258-9, 305, ill. (color)
  • Abitur 2017 Original-Prüfungsaufgaben mit Lösungen Gymnasium Bayern Kunst, Stark Verlag (2016), pp. 2016-16, end matter, ill. (b/w and color)
  • Sabine Rewald, Max Beckmann in New York, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 2016), p. 64, fig. 47, ill. (color)
  • Lynette Roth, Max Beckmann: The World as a Stage, exh. cat., ed. Kunsthalle Bremen and Museum Barberini, Prestel (Munich, London, New York, 2017), pp. 50-51, fig. 8, ill. (color)
  • Werner Heiland-Justi, Von Beckmann bis Zschokke - Künstlerbriefe an Ludwig Justi, Kunstverlag Josef Fink (Lindenberg im Allgäu, Germany, 2017), Cover, p. 7, ill. (color)
  • Anette Kruszynski, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf: Otto Dix, Bildnis der Kunsthändlerin Johanna Ey, 1924, Patrimonia, 2018, pp. 27, 32, fig. 19, ill. (color)
  • John A. Parks, "Here's Looking at Art", Artists Magazine, F+W Media Inc. (Blue Ash, OH, 2019), Vol. 36, No. 04, pp. 44-51, pp. 47-48, ill. (color)
  • Max Beckmann: Weiblich-Männlich, exh. cat., Prestel Verlag (Munich, London, New York, 2020), p. 74, cat. no. 17
  • Harry Cooper, Philip Guston: Now, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C., 2020), p. 107, ill. (color)
  • Ottilie W. Roederstein, exh. cat., Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft / Kunsthaus Zürich, Städel Museum, and Hatje Cantz Verlag (Zurich and Berlin, 2021), pp. 55-56, fig. 8, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

  • Max Beckmann Retrospective Exhibition, City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 05/01/1948 - 05/31/1948; Busch-Reisinger Museum, 12/06/1948 - 01/07/1949
  • Neue Sachlichkeit, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris Cedex 04, 07/12/1978 - 11/06/1978; Arts Council of Great Britain, London, London, 11/08/1978 - 01/14/1979
  • Works from the 20th Century Collection of the Busch-Reisinger, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 06/15/1980 - 09/01/1980; Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 09/23/1980 - 10/24/1980
  • Deutsche Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts aus dem Busch-Reisinger Museum, Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 10/23/1982 - 01/16/1983; Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin 30, 02/10/1983 - 04/17/1983; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, 05/08/1983 - 06/26/1983
  • Hinter der Buhne (Backstage): Max Beckmann 1950, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, 07/20/1990 - 09/19/1990; Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 10/10/1990 - 01/13/1991
  • Max Beckmann Self-Portraits, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, 03/19/1993 - 05/23/1993; Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek, 80799 München, 06/09/1993 - 07/25/1993
  • Max Beckmann and Paris, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, 09/25/1998 - 01/03/1999
  • Max Beckmann, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris Cedex 04, 09/10/2002 - 01/06/2003; Tate Modern, London, 02/12/2003 - 05/05/2003; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 06/25/2003 - 09/30/2003
  • Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011
  • Re-View: European and American Art Since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/03/2011 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 1500 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Expressionism-Interwar), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 08/05/2015; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/04/2016 - 07/20/2021; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/28/2024 - 01/01/2050
  • 32Q: 1520 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Interwar and Bauhaus), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 03/28/2024; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/01/2050
  • New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic 1919-1933, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 10/04/2015 - 01/17/2016

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Iconic Works

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Verification Level

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