Circus Caravan, Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann
Circus Caravan
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Max Beckmann

Circus Caravan, 1940

86.3 x 118.5 cm
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Inventory Number
SG 1127
Acquired in 1951
On loan


About the Work

For Beckmann, the circus and the stage were symbols of human existence. He set his pictorial narratives in an artificial world where he directed the actors and circus artists performing the great “theatre” of life. Again and again, he also inscribed himself into these dramas. Here he appears as a circus director in the midst of an accumulation of densely placed figures, peering out from behind his newspaper with a sinister gaze. He has cast his wife Mathilde in the role of the fortune teller stretched out on a sofa at the centre of the composition. A wild animal tamer with a whip seems to be keeping not just the caged tigers but the whole company under control. Beckmann’s paintings are ambiguous and contain numerous personal allusions. They defy any universally valid interpretation. The artist frequently reflects on his personal situation. He painted The Circus Carriage during his oppressive exile in Amsterdam. It mirrors the confinement of his living situation at the time and the constant threat posed by the Nazis and his own uncertain prospects for the future. The work was the Städel’s first Beckmann acquisition after 1945.


  • Basic information
  • Focus on art history

Work Data

Basic Information

Circus Caravan
Production Place
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert und datiert unten rechts: Beckmann A 40
Work Catalogues
  • Göpel 2021, Nr. 552

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
Public Domain
Acquired in 1951

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Persons and Institutions


  • 43A36 circus
  • 41AA192 caravan (trailer) - AA - civic architecture: inside
  • 61B2(BECKMANN,Max)11(+51) historical person (BECKMANN,Max) - historical person (BECKMANN,Max) portrayed alone (+ head (BECKMANN,Max) (BECKMANN,Max))
  • 48B3 portrait, self-portrait of artist
  • 31A235 sitting figure
  • 31AA2364 lying on one side, with uplifted upper part of the body and leaning on the arm - AA - female human figure
  • 31A231 standing figure
  • 31A2723 climbing

Research and Discussion


Object History
Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Amsterdam
Galerie Günther Franke, München, 1941
verkauft an die Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main, April 1951.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.

Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:

  • the type of acquisition and/or the way the object changed hands
  • the owner's name and place of residence
  • the date on which it changed hands

The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.

Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.

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