Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass is the third self-likeness Beckmann executed after World War I. Whereas he had previously portrayed himself as a medical orderly and as an artist in the studio, here he appears as an elegant dandy in a tuxedo at the bar of a nightclub. Beckmann was thus drawing on a richly traditional motif: depictions of jolly drinkers and revellers were especially popular in the Dutch and Flemish painting of the seventeenth century. This portrait, however, does not convey an impression of boisterous gaiety. The artist’s head resembles a skull, his skin has a greenish hue, shades of red and yellow shimmer in his eyes. His body crams itself into the constricted pictorial space with a cramped, almost contorted pose. A grotesque-looking character laughs in the background; in the mirror at the left, the same face laughs back like a menacing echo.
The period immediately following World War I was shaped by tremendous upheaval in politics and society. While wartime profiteers flaunted their wealth in nightclubs, cabarets and luxury hotels, countless others fell prey to poverty. Beckmann here adopts the ambiguous identity of the sickly bon viveur, trying to eke some enjoyment out of life in what is probably the bar of the Frankfurter Hof, where – according to contemporary witnesses – his drink of choice was champagne. It would come to be his classic role: that of the aloof bourgeois, the detached observer holding a mirror up to society.
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 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.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact the museum at .
Art-technology findings and/or documentation regarding conservation and restoration are available for this work. If interested, please contact .