Indiana University Indiana University IU

Artist Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950)
Title Aquarium
Date April 1929
Medium Pastel on paper
Dimensions Image: 35 3/16 × 23 1/4 in. (89.4 × 59.1 cm)
Sheet: 36 7/8 × 24 7/8 in. (93.7 × 63.2 cm)
Framed: 42 7/8 × 30 15/16 × 1 3/8 in. (108.9 × 78.6 × 3.5 cm)
Credit Line Bernhard and Cola Heiden Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2000.136

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About this Work

Bernhard Heiden's father, Ernst Levi, was a magistrate and city councilman in Frankfurt, Germany, responsible for the social welfare programs for artists afflicted by the hard times of the 1920s. Levi helped Max Beckmann get his post at the local art school, commissioned a large oil that hung over the family fireplace, and bought Aquarium to support the man he recognized as the city's most important painter.
His son and daughter-in-law continued this support after they moved to the United States. Cola Heiden made efforts to bring Beckmann to Indiana University after the war, though negotiations were overcome in 1947 by an offer from Washington University in St. Louis where Beckmann taught before moving to Brooklyn in 1949, the year before his death.

2000, Bequest to the Indiana University Art Museum from Bernhard Heiden

1963–2000, Collection of Bernhard Heiden (1910–2000) and Cola Heiden (1910–1999), Bloomington, IN (by descent from Martha Heiden) [1]

August 1929–1963, Collection of Ernst Levi (1865–1941) and Martha Heiden (1878–1963), New Rochelle, NY, formerly of Frankfurt (purchase from the artist) [2]

1929, Possession of the artist [3]


[1] Bernhard Heiden (né Levi) and his wife Cola (née de Joncheere) Heiden emigrated to the United States in 1935 to escape persecution under the Third Reich’s antisemitic laws. They settled in Bloomington in 1946, where Bernhard was a member of the music school faculty until his retirement in 1981. The Heidens inherited much of their art collection, including this watercolor, from Bernhard’s parents, who followed them to the United States four years later (museum donor files).

[2] Ernst Levi was a magistrate for the city of Frankfurt am Main, where he lived with wife Martha (née Heidenheimer), a violinist, until their emigration to the United States. Among Levi’s duties was the supervision of social welfare programs for Frankfurt artists. Levi came to be on friendly terms with many of them, including Beckmann, and through these various contacts was able to assemble a collection of contemporary German art. Ernst and Martha fled Germany in 1939, sailing from the port of Bremen after a brief detainment by Nazi officials. Whether they had works from their collection in their possession when they left, or sent for them later, is unresolved. The entire collection appears to have reached the United States intact (Bernhard Heiden in conversation with Kathleen Foster, former Indiana University Art Museum curator of Western art after 1800, on November 15, 1999; transcript in museum files).

[3] Beckmann noted the sale of this sheet to Levi in his list of pictures: “1929 / August / Levy [sic] (Pastell Aquarium)” – Book 1, p. 12b; Max Beckmann-Archiv, Murnau (Per Max Beckmann: The Watercolors and Pastels, cat. rais., Frankfurt: Schirm Kunsthalle, 2006, cat. no. 40).

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

October 6–December 23, 2012, “Pioneers and Exiles: German Expressionism at the Indiana University Art Museum,” Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, IN (cat. no. 39)

March 3–September 17, 2006, “Max Beckmann: The Watercolors and Pastels,” Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, March 3–May 28, 2006; Fundación del Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, June 26–September 17, 2006 (cat. no. 40)

September 17–December 10, 2000, “A Legacy of German Expressionism – Gifts from Bernhard and Cola Heiden,” Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, IN

September 25, 1998–May 9, 1999, Saint Louis Art Museum and Kunsthaus Zürich, “Max Beckmann and Paris,” Kunsthaus Zürich, September 25, 1998–January 3, 1999; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO, February 6–May 9, 1999 (cat. no. 60, with wrong dimensions)

October 16–December 11, 1977, “Max Beckmann Aquarelle und Zeichnungen,” Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany; Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany; Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt am Main, Germany (cat. no. 128, with wrong dimensions)

October 1–22, 1958, “German Art in Our Time,” Indiana University Art Center Gallery, Bloomington, IN (cat. no. 5, as “Fish”)

August 3–31, 1930, “Max Beckmann,” Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland (cat. no. 106, as “Pastell mit Goldfischen”)

1930, “Max Beckmann,” Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland (cat. no. 92, as Pastell mit Goldfischen”)

1929, “Max Beckmann,” Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (cat. no. 54, as "Pastell mit Goldfischen”)

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"Aquarium | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.