Search for over 100 million sold objects in our Price Bank

Hölle der Vögel
Hölle der Vögel

About the object

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)\nHölle der Vögel\n\noil on canvas\n\n47 1/8 x 63 1/8 in. (119.7 x 160.4 cm.)\n\nPainted in 1937-1938



‘Hölle der Vögel (Birds’ Hell) is an allegory of Nazi Germany. It is a direct attack on the cruelty and conformity that the National Socialist seizure of power brought to Beckmann’s homeland. Its place in Beckmann’s oeuvre corresponds to that occupied by Guernica in Picasso’s artistic development. It is an outcry as loud and as strident as an artistic Weltanschauung would permit. Not since his graphic attacks in Hunger and City Night in the early twenties had Beckmann resorted to such directness, such undisguised social criticism. Birds’ Hell is Beckmann’s J’accuse’ (S. Lackner, Max Beckmann, New York, 1977, p. 130).

So wrote Stephan Lackner, Max Beckmann’s friend, patron and biographer about this great, dark, visionary painting Hölle der Vögel - one of the first paintings that Beckmann made in Amsterdam after leaving Germany for good in the summer of 1937. Indeed, Hölle der Vögel is, perhaps, the very first painting that Beckmann conceived of making during his new life as an exile from Nazi Germany. It is also a work that is as close as this fiercely non-political artist ever came to painting a picture specifically addressing his feelings towards the brutal, thuggish and debased regime that had taken over his homeland.

Hölle der Vögel is much more, however, than a mere propagandist attack on the dark forces of nationalism that, in the 1930, appeared to be dragging much of Europe back into the chaos and division of the Middle Ages. Beckmann was to produce much of his finest work during his years of isolation and exile in the 1930s and, as with all of his great paintings of this time, Hölle der Vögel is an allegorical picture that addresses wider and more universal themes than just the then-present nightmare scenario of Nazi Germany. Adopting the epic style of many of Beckmann’s other great paintings of this period, his ‘Birds’ Hell’ is an almost theatrical picture that presents its dark subject in the pictorial language of allegory - as if it were providing a contemporary vision of one of the Greek myths or a morality tale from a medieval passion play.

Like a twentieth-century Breughel or Bosch, Beckmann has conjured a scene of mankind’s descent into darkness and terror as if it were a medieval portrait of hell. Using deliberately rich, vibrant, even garish, colours interset by thick, sweeping, black brushstrokes that brilliantly carve out the vivid and distinct, individual forms of the picture as if it were a woodblock, Beckmann’s dynamic brushwork depicts a decidedly bizarre, anti-natural scene – a topsy-turvy world of noise, violence, madness and mass hysteria. In using the imagery of colourful birds of paradise as the ludicrous instigators of this irrational revolt, Beckmann powerfully conveys the atmosphere of a plague or infestation. And it is in this way that the allegory of Hölle der Vögel expresses a more universal and timeless sense of the Nazi phenomenon as a kind of periodic madness. One that, intermittently, it seems, throughout history, has erupted to blight the world of men and compel them, for a time at least, to endure the kind of trauma and torment here being meted out by these puffed-up and preposterous, ornithological demons.

As Stephan Lackner pointed out, the symbolism Beckmann has used in this picture is, in fact, quite simple to interpret using what he called, ‘the aid of some special historical knowledge’. In his 1977 book on Beckmann, Lackner provided the following analysis of this painting which he had known well since the time of its creation and its first display in 1938, in Paris, in the apartment of Beckmann’s good friend and tireless supporter, Käthe von Porada: ‘The Nazis enjoyed stretching their right arms into the air simultaneously, a gesture known as the Hitlergruss that was usually accompanied by raucous shouting. Rich party officials, who strutted around in well-tailored uniforms, were called Goldfasanen (gold pheasants) by the sceptical populace. It is also useful to remember the prevalence in Nazi Germany of the incessant din of loudspeakers. The aggressive Prussian eagle was still a vivid memory, and the Third Reich adopted the heraldic bird for some of its own emblems. The golden coins that the eagle is hoarding symbolize monopolistic capitalism which, under the pretext of patriotism, came to the aid of Hitler and his supporters. Even the clergy who joined forces with the Nazis – especially the Deutsche Christen of Reichsbischof Müller – are symbolized by the black-frocked, bespectacled bird just below the loudspeaker funnels. All these forces are united in one vast, orgiastic demonstration, while in the foreground, unnoticed by the excited crowd, a slim, shackled, Kafkaesque intellectual is being carved up. But what about the enigmatic female figure in the centre of the composition? This riddle could fairly easily be solved by viewers during the late thirties. She represents the all-pervasive, phony myth used by the National Socialists to gloss over their crude power game, their materialism and their Blut und Boden philosophy, or blood-and-soil preachments. Mother Earth, with multiple breasts and Hitler salute, pops out of the Nazi egg like a barbaric jack-in-the-box. A perverted mother goddess, Germania bares her teeth in an aggressive grin. Fertility becomes the official duty of the warrior race. Aryan maidens lined up behind the goddess are waiting for the Nazi studs. On the right, a newspaper is lying on the floor. It seems that the slender, perhaps Jewish, man was just reading about the Nazi horrors when, suddenly, the contents of the Zeitung came to life for him. In the left foreground, a table displays some of the good things that people enjoyed before the Hitler cohorts invaded this room: grapes, a book, and the candle of intellectual endeavour. In spite of its glaring reds and yellows, this is not poster art. There is still enough good taste, enough transmutation into the sphere of symbolic disguise to lift the painting above mere propaganda. But what a lusty, spirited attack this is! It must have been a great, grim satisfaction for Beckmann to pay the Nazis back in their own coin. This painting was, of course, not executed in Nazi Germany, where Beckmann would soon have shared the fate of the shackled, nude victim who is being slaughtered. It was painted in his newly found refuge in Amsterdam. With this work, Beckmann’s exile became irrevocable’ (ibid.).

Beckmann and his wife Mathilde, affectionately known as ‘Quappi’, had left Germany for good in July 1937. For four long years since the Nazis had come to power in Germany in 1933, Beckmann had stubbornly tried to carve out a life for himself in his homeland, hoping, somehow, he could outlast the Hitler regime. But, in July 1937, after the furious attack on modern artists that Hitler made in a speech given to open the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich where the Führer effectively threatened painters like him with either imprisonment or castration, Beckmann packed his bags and left for his sister-in-law’s house in Holland.

Beckmann’s first ideas for Hölle der Vögel derive from a sketch that he made almost immediately he became settled enough to work again after arriving in the Netherlands. Made in Amsterdam, this sketch was drawn just under a month after his arrival in the country and is dated 2 August 1937. It is entitled der Land des Wahnsinningen (The Country of the Insane) and depicts a scene that Beckmann would have been risking his life to paint in Nazi Germany. It shows the same scene of torture that would appear in the finished oil painting, along with a crowd of figures giving the Hitlergrüss and a, later-abandoned, idea of a group of figures holding crystal balls.

Although it was one of the first new works to be conceived after his arrival in the Netherlands, Hölle der Vögel was not the first painting that Beckmann completed in Amsterdam. Even though sketches for Hölle der Vögel derive from the summer of 1937 and Erhard Göpel, author of the catalogue raisonné of Beckmann’s paintings, believes Beckmann did indeed begin to work on the painting at some time in 1937, the completed oil wasn’t finished until the end of the summer of 1938. We know this from Beckmann’s handlist of paintings in which he notes the work as having been completed at this time. Beckmann has also underlined the title of the painting twice in this list as if to indicate that the work held a special significance for him (see C. Lenz, ‘“Beautiful and Horribly Life-like’”, The Art of Max Beckmann, 1937-47’, in exh. cat., Max Beckmann Exile in Amsterdam, Amsterdam, 2007, p. 97).

In fact, in terms of new paintings, Beckmann appears to have spent much of his first months in Holland completing and reworking earlier pictures that he had brought with him; paintings such as the self-portraits Der König (1934-37) and Selbstbildnis mit Horn (1938). The first major new oil painting that Beckmann both conceived and completed in his new life of exile in Amsterdam appears to be the appropriately entitled Geburt (Birth). This painting, now in the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, is one of a series of allegorical works that articulate Beckmann’s thoughts about life and his ideas of exile as a kind of mystical journey or rite of passage under the auspices of a higher, all-determining power or destiny. Together with its pendant painting Tod (Death), also in the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and Hölle der Vögel, these three similarly scaled works have often been seen as a kind of trilogy of pictures from this period intended to convey in a unique way an idea of the essential transience of all human life. And in so doing, to show also that all the trials and tribulations of the dark times of the late 1930s were, within this wider, more universal, context, also only passing phenomena. It is a theme that had particular relevance for much of Beckmann’s work of the 1930s and one that clearly intensified with the change in Beckmann’s living circumstances as he began his life in exile. It is perhaps also important to note in this respect that Beckmann, in 1938, not only intended his stay in Amsterdam to be a mere stop-gap on his way to a new life in either Paris or America, but also that, even at this late stage, he still hoped and sometimes thought that the Nazi regime itself would soon self-destruct.

Because of its similar scale and format to Geburt and Tod, Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel has often also been seen as being somehow related to these two pictures of the beginning and end of human life. While it adopts a similar allegorical language in order to tell its tale, the similarities between Hölle der Vögel and Geburt and Tod are, however, probably more stylistic than thematic. All these paintings, for instance, are compositionally centred on the image of a woman. Neither a mother nor a corpse, as in Geburt and Tod respectively, the blue harpy-like creature at the centre of Hölle der Vögel - a mystical demon-goddess, being born from an egg into the midst of the mayhem - is a distinctly anti-natural figure. Herein lies the essential difference between the worlds of Hölle der Vögel and those of Geburt and Tod.

This same demonic, many-breasted figure is one that can also be found in other Beckmann paintings of this period, most notably in the central panel of his famous Versuchung (Temptation) triptych of 1936-37. Her origins lie in the ancient art of the Mediterranean and the Near East; perhaps, as Lackner once pointed out, in the famous statue of Artemis in Ephesus or in a Chaldean myth. Her presence as a central figure at the heart of Hölle der Vögel, however, symbolises the nightmarish triumph of an anti-natural order. In contrast to Geburt and Tod – two works that effectively book-end the natural passage of man’s life on earth - Hölle der Vögel depicts an upset in what Beckmann depicts as a natural passage from one state of being to another. Adopting the visionary, metaphorical language of Northern Renaissance painters like Bosch, Breughel and Grünewald, and their often ornithological visions of hell, the ‘Birds’ Hell’ that Beckmann paints presents an assault on all that he himself held dear. In this claustrophobic cellar world, there is noticeably no horizon, no sky, no nature and no escape. Both the entrances/exits to this cellar are filled with either hysterically chanting supporters or bellowing loudspeakers. The denial of any possibility of individual progression or passage, so often articulated in other Beckmann allegories, and so central to Geburt and Tod, is reinforced in Hölle der Vögel by the still-life set in the front of the painting and which Beckmann presents in direct contrast to the strictly vain and materialistic parading of plumage and gold-hording going on behind it. This cockatoo world is one of ignorance, vanity and collective hysteria. Here there is no chance for personal individuation, Hölle der Vögel asserts. Such collective madness has up-ended the natural order. The central theme of the painting – as the carving up of the lone human figure in the foreground of the painting indicates – is this assault of a dumb, collective mindset on the rights of the individual. This is a theme which Beckmann outlined with some vehemence in his famous speech given at the 20th Century German Art Show in London, around the time he completed Hölle der Vögel. That it is this wider theme, rather than the specific evils of National Socialism, that this painting addresses, is also indicated by the still-life in the front of the picture which serves as an allegorical portrait of the world of the individual as Beckmann saw it. There, on a café table, a candle of hope still burns alongside a plate of grapes - symbolising civilization, nature and also its transformative power. Behind the candle is a painting of a sun setting over the sea. This picture is similar to the last painting that Beckmann had made before leaving Nazi Germany: his Nordseelandschaft I (Gewitter). The sea in Beckmann’s paintings always indicated the possibility of passage, of journeying. It is an image of hope, possibility and, once again, the ability to transform, to develop, to follow the path of individuation or self-development. Here, though, the setting sun in the painting seems also to suggest a fast disappearing hope sinking over the horizon.

In his speech given at London’s New Burlington Galleries in July 1938, Beckmann had announced that ‘the greatest danger that threatens humanity is collectivism. Everywhere attempts are being made to lower the happiness and the way of living of mankind to the level of termites. I am against these attempts with all the strength of my being’ (‘On My Painting’, 21 July 1938, reproduced in B. Copeland Buenger, ed., op cit., p. 307). The beginning of a new, horrifying era of blind submission to power and collective thinking is symbolised in Hölle der Vögel by the unnaturally coloured, multiple-breasted, screaming, harpy-like figure at the centre of the picture. The epitome of a false idol, this newly hatched figure is also a symbol of the fake mythology and bankrupt ideology championed by the Nazis. An anti-fertility goddess, she is an insidious figure: both plague and poison - and in this respect, she is also a portent of the future.

Calling to mind the man-eating blue bird of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, this demon is, in essence, a symbol of the age. And it was not just Beckmann who resorted to mythological imagery during this period in order to evoke the feeling of a widespread evil rising up from the bowls of the earth ready to plunge the whole of Europe into war and devastation again. This was, in fact, a common trend running through much avant-garde art of the period, particularly that created by veterans of the Great War, who, like Beckmann himself, recognised and feared the signs of a recurrence of violence when they saw them. Otto Dix, for example, had warned explicitly of the dangers in the rise in militarism and nationalism in his Great War triptych in 1928, and did so again in 1932 with his painting Flanders. After the Nazis had come to power Dix was obliged to turn away from realism towards allegory, in the form of traditional Renaissance subjects such as The Triumph of Death, The Seven Deadly Sins or Lot and his Daughters in order to pictorially signify his fears for the future. George Grosz too, though living in exile in the United States, also fell back upon the great Germanic tradition of painting at this time to depict his shockingly accurate prophecies of the oncoming apocalypse. Max Ernst, another German artist whose work was also deeply rooted in the Northern Romantic tradition, envisaged the Nazis as a mythological barbarian horde rising out of the earth and trampling the continent underfoot. He also depicted sinister birds emerging from the Teutonic forest and, with the onset of the Spanish Civil War, a mad, out-of-control, firebird-type demon trouncing the earth in his L’ange du foyer paintings of 1937.

All of these visions seem to draw on the same Gothic world of the imagination that Hölle der Vögel invokes. Indeed, in Beckmann’s ‘Birds’ Hell’ the artist, consciously or unconsciously, appears to have drawn directly, in places, on specific medieval precedents. Not only does the general scene of the painting resemble Judgement Day pictures like those made by Breughel, Bosch or the descent of the blue winged demons in Luca Signorelli’s Orvieto frescoes, but Beckmann’s depiction of torture in the foreground of Hölle der Vögel closely apes fifteenth-century paintings of the martyrdom of St Bartholomew by artists like Stephan Lochner and Gerard David. In addition, Beckmann’s depiction of the bespectacled bird-figure which Lackner identified as a mocking portrait of the Nazi priest, Reichsbischof Müller, bears a close resemblance to Hieronymus Bosch’s false priest reading from the bible in the central panel of his Temptation of St Anthony triptych. In its drawing upon a distinctly Germanic cultural tradition in painting, as Lackner suggested, the place of Hölle der Vögel in Beckmann’s oeuvre corresponds closely with ‘that occupied by Guernica in Picasso’s artistic development’ during the same period (S. Lackner, op. cit., p. 130).

Created in the spring of 1937, Guernica was a very public cry from the heart by Picasso about the destruction of his homeland by an insidious political evil. In response to news reports about the Fascist bombing of the town of Guernica in Northern Spain, Picasso rendered his nightmarish vision of the event in the archetypal language of Spain. Ostensibly depicting the scene of a peasant family suffering an unknown terror (a bombardment) from above, Picasso, through his central representation of a bull and a terrified screaming horse, showed all the pride, elegance and glory of the Spanish corrida thrown into colourless, grisaille chaos. But what has made Guernica such a timeless and enduring image of the horrors of war, however, is that Picasso has rendered this haunting scene in a manner that is both specific and universal. The assault in Guernica is both an attack upon the culture and civilization of Spain by an unknown evil, but it is also understandable as an assault upon all humanity.

With its attack of a mad, collective horde of birds upon the singularity of the lone individual, Hölle der Vögel is a painting that does exactly the same with regards to Germany and the Third Reich. Apart from the stark contrast in scale and colour, the central difference between these two great, angry paintings is one of notoriety. Whereas Picasso’s Guernica garnered immediate, world-wide recognition and acclaim when it was hung in the centre of the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel is a work that, due to the artist’s situation, was only seen by a handful of people before the end of the Second World War. On Beckmann’s completion of the painting in 1938 Hölle der Vögel was hung privately in the Paris apartment of the artist’s friend and tireless promoter, Käthe von Porada, where she encouraged a discreet audience of sympathetic admirers to view the painting. Hölle der Vögel was to remain there throughout the German Occupation of France until after the war, when, like the Beckmanns themselves, it travelled to New York.

‘Genuine art just cannot be made effective through hurly-burly and propaganda in a journalistic sense’, Beckmann wrote to Lackner while working on Hölle der Vögel. ‘Everything essential happens apart from everyday noise, only to attain a more far-reaching effect. The weak and unoriginal try to obtain a shabby fame for one day, and should get it. But this is not for us. One has to wait patiently for things to happen – Most important is the silent show in your own rooms. By this, as time goes by, you will obtain a central force with which to direct everything, if you submerge yourself completely and consider the game of life as a contest for spiritual power – the only game which is really amusing. But this must happen almost in secret. Everything too public diminishes your strength – at least during the birth of the will and during its youth… Politics is a subaltern matter whose manifestation changes continually with the whims of the masses just as cocottes manage to react according to the needs of the male and to transform and mask themselves. Which means – nothing essential. What it’s all about is: the permanent, the unique, the true existence all through the fight of illusions, the retreat from the whirl of shadows. Perhaps we will succeed in this’ (Beckmann, letter to Stephan Lackner, January 1938, reproduced in S. Lackner, Max Beckmann, Memories of a Friendship, Miami, 1969, p. 38).

In another letter written to Günther Franke in 1934, Beckmann reiterated these same sentiments more succinctly when he wrote, ‘the time will come when justice will be done to me’ (Beckmann, letter to Günther Franke, 1934, reproduced in W. Haftmann, Banned and Persecuted Dictatorship of Art under Hitler, Cologne, 1986, p. 50).

Robert Brown

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale, which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. Christie’s may choose to assume this financial risk on its own or may contract with a third party for such third party to assume all or part of this financial risk. When a third party agrees to finance all or part of Christie’s interest in a lot, it takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold, and will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk out of Christie’s revenues from the sale, whether or not the third party is a successful bidder. The third party may bid for the lot and may or may not have knowledge of the reserves. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the remuneration may be netted against the final purchase price. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss.

Christie’s guarantee of a minimum price for this lot has been fully financed through third parties

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

This lot has a guarantee fully or partially funded by a third party who may be bidding on the lot and may receive a financing fee from Christie's.

Please note that this work has been requested for inclusion in the following exhibitions:

New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Artists in Exile: Expressions of Loss, 1 August 2017 – 21 January 2018.

New York, Neue Galerie, Towards Catastrophe: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s, 22 February – 28 May 2018.

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Max Beckmann: Figures in Exile, 23 October 2018 – 27 January 2019, and Barcelona, CaixaForum, 20 February - 28 May 2019.



Hölle der Vögel


Max Beckmann (1884-1950)


Paris (probably in a private gallery), Expressionisten, no catalogue (mentioned in a letter from Max Beckmann to Curt Valentin dated 7 December 1945).

New York, Buchholz Gallery, Paintings and Sculpture from Europe, January 1948, no. 4, p. 20 (illustrated; dated ‘1937’).

New York, Art School of the Brooklyn Museum, Faculty Show, September 1950, no catalogue.

Munich, Haus der Kunst, Max Beckmann zum Gedächtnis, 1884-1950, June – July 1951, no. 116 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, September 1951.

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Max Beckmann, December 1951 – January 1952, no. 44 (dated '1937').

New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, Max Beckmann, January – February 1954, no. 19 (illustrated; mistakenly dated ‘1947’).

Madison, Wisconsin Union Gallery, German Expressionist Paintings from the Morton D. May Collection, April - May 1959, no. 3.

St Louis, Pius XII Memorial Library, St Louis University, Paintings from the Collection of Mr and Mrs Morton D. May, February – July 1960, no. 63 (illustrated).

Denver Art Museum, German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Mr & Mrs Morton D. May, 1960, no. 69 (dated ‘1937’); this exhibition later travelled to Los Angeles, UCLA Art Galleries; San Diego, Fine Arts Gallery; San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum; Chicago, Art Institute; Youngstown, Butler Institute of American Art; Akron, Ohio, Akron Art Institute; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; and Baltimore Museum of Art between 1960-1962.

Portland Art Museum, German Expressionist Paintings from the Collection of Morton D. May, September – October 1967, no. 25 (dated '1937').

Recklinghausen, Städtische Kunsthalle, Reiche des Phantastischen, May – June 1968, no. 10, p. 64 (illustrated; dated '1938').

Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Max Beckmann, September – October 1968, no. 72 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Haus der Kunst, November 1968 – January 1969, no. 70 (illustrated; dated 1938'); and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, January – March 1969, no. 72 (illustrated).

Bremen, Kunsthalle, Max Beckmann und die deutschen Expressionisten aus der Sammlung Morton D. May, St Louis, USA, April – June 1969, no. E7; this exhibition later travelled to Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein, June – July 1969; and Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, August – September 1969.

New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, The Morton D. May Collection of 20th Century German Masters, January – February 1970, no. 29 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to St Louis, City Art Museum, July – August 1970.

London, Marlborough Fine Art, Max Beckmann, November 1974, no. 24, p. 9 (illustrated p. 28; dated ‘1937’); this exhibition later travelled to New York, Marlborough Gallery, March 1975.

Munich, Haus der Kunst, Max Beckmann – Retrospektive, February – April 1984, no. 84, pp. 270-271 (illustrated p. 271; dated ‘1938’); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie, May – July 1984; St Louis, The St Louis Art Museum, September – November 1984; and Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, December 1984 – February 1985.

London, Royal Academy of Arts, German Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1902-1985, no. 119 (illustrated; dated ‘1938’); this exhibition later travelled to Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, February – April 1986.

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Max Beckmann: Meisterwerke 1907-1950, September 1994 – January 1995, no. 33, p. 128 (illustrated p. 129; dated ‘1938’).

New York, Guggenheim Museum SoHo, Max Beckmann in Exile, October 1996 – January 1997, no. 7 (illustrated; dated ‘1938’).

Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Exiles and Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler, February – May 1997, no. 8, p. 401 (illustrated p. 60; dated ‘1938’); this exhibition later travelled to Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, June – September 1997.

Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Max Beckmann, September 2002 – January 2003, no. 101, p. 287 (illustrated pp. 188-189; dated ‘1938’); this exhibition later travelled to London, Tate Modern, February – May 2003; and New York, Museum of Modern Art QNS, June – September 2003.

Paris, Musée du Louvre, De l'Allemagne, 1800-1939: De Friedrich à Beckmann, March – June 2013, p. 34 (illustrated; dated '1938').

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Max Beckmann in New York, October 2016 – February 2017, no. 19, p. 88 (illustrated p. 89; dated ‘1938’).


The artist's handlist (annotated ‘1938: Hölle der Vögel. Verkauft (an Kati in Paris (Valentin)’).

Letter from Max Beckmann to Rudolf von Simolin, Paris, 21 December 1938.

Letter from Max Beckmann to Curt Valentin, 7 December 1945.

H. Swarzenski, 'Prefatory Note', in exh. cat., Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St Louis: Max Beckmann, vol. 33, no. 1-2, St Louis, May 1948, p. 8.

B. Reifenberg & W. Hausenstein, Max Beckmann, Munich, 1949, no. 412, p. 76 (dated ‘1938’).

The artist’s diary, 25 September 1950 (annotated in relation to the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum ‘Aber am meisten freuten mich meine eben dort ausgestellten Bilder “Hölle der Vögel”, “Geburt” und “Mühle” aus Holland’).

Exh. cat., Max Beckmann, Amsterdam, 1951, no. 44.

H. Swarzenski, in exh. cat., Max Beckmann, St Louis, 1948, p. 8.

T.B. Hess, 'Reviews and Previews', in Art News, vol. 52, no. 10, February 1954, p. 42 (illustrated).

L.G. Buchheim, Max Beckmann, Feldafing, 1959 (illustrated fig. 58; dated '1938').

G. Schmidt, Malerei des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, 1900-1918, Königstein, 1960, p. 51 (illustrated).

E. & E. Göpel, eds., Blick auf Beckmann: Dokumente und Vorträge, Munich, 1962, p. 274.

A. Jannasch, 'Max Beckmann als Illustrator', in Imprimatur, vol. 3, 1962, p. 20.

M.P. Maass, Das Apokalyptische in der modernen Kunst, Munich, 1965, p. 97 (illustrated p. 71; dated '1938').

H. Gärtner, 'Antifaschistische Kunst und Realismus', in Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald, vol. 15, no. 4, Greifswald, 1966, pp. 365 & 370.

H. Olbrich, 'Antifaschistische Kunst in der Emigration', in Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald, vol. 15, no. 4, Greifswald, 1966, p. 442.

S. Lackner, Ich erinnere mich gut an Max Beckmann, Mainz, 1967, p. 39.

A. Jannasch, 'Max Beckmann als Illustrator', in Imprimatur, vol. 6, Neu-Isenburg, 1969, p. 11.

M. Mícko, Expresionismus, Prague, 1969 (illustrated fig. 37; dated '1938').

C.S. Kessler, Max Beckmann’s Triptychs, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970, note 8, p. 154 (dated '1937').

E. & B. Göpel, Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde, vol. I, Bern, 1976, no. 506, pp. 320-321 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 178).

S. Lackner, Max Beckmann, New York, 1977, no. 30, p. 130 (illustrated p. 131; dated ‘1938’).

A. Rosenbaum, 'Art from Five Centuries: Architect Peter Coan Creates a Setting for Richard Feigen's Collection', in House and Garden, vol. 155, no. 11, November 1983, pp. 102-115 (illustrated in situ).

Exh. cat., Max Beckmann, Cologne, 1984 (illustrated fig. 7, p. 55; dated ‘1938’).

W. Haftmann, Banned and Persecuted: Dictatorship of Art under Hitler, Cologne, 1986, pp. 57-58 (illustrated p. 57).

S. Lackner, Max Beckmann, New York, 1991, no. 26, p. 98 (illustrated p. 99; 'dated 1938').

S. Reimertz, Max Beckmann, Hamburg, 1995, p. 100 (illustrated p. 101).

R. Spieler, Max Beckmann, 1884-1950: The Path to Myth, Cologne, 1995, p. 114 (illustrated; dated ‘1937’).

G. Teskey, Allegory and Violence, Ithaca & London, 1996, p. 125 (illustrated fig. 8; dated '1938').

A. Dümling, 'Deutsche Künstler im amerikanischen Exil: Die Sicht der USA', in Basler Zeitung, 24 April 1997.

R. Hughes, 'The Indelible Imprint of Exile', in San Francisco Examiner, 9 March 1997 (illustrated).

M. Kimmelman, 'The Agony of Exile, for the Lucky Ones', in The New York Times, 2 March 1997 (illustrated).

A. Kruszynski, 'Den Menschen ein Bild ihres Schicksals Geben', in exh. cat., Max Beckmann: Die Nacht, Dusseldorf, 1997, p. 10 (illustrated fig. 1).

L. Ollman, 'Exiles on Main Street', in ARTnews, vol. 96, no. 6, June 1997, p. 115.

R.L. Pincus, 'Historical Force Lifts "Exiles" Exhibits to Powerful Heights', in San Diego Union Tribune, 9 March 1997.

S. Rachum, ed., exh. cat., The Joy of Color: The Merzbacher Collection, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 208.

N. Rosenthal, exh. cat., Apocalypse: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art, London, 2000, p. 16 (illustrated p. 23; dated '1938').

C. Schulz-Hoffmann, 'Between Self-Certainty, Irony and Despair: Max Beckmann 1925-1937', in exh. cat., Max Beckmann: Exile in Amsterdam, Amsterdam & Ostfildern, 2007, pp. 26-27, 45-46 & 108 (illustrated fig. 15, p. 27; dated ‘1938’).

J. Lloyd, Neue Galerie, Max Beckmann: Self-Portrait with Horn, New York, 2008, p. 65 (illustrated; dated ‘1938’).

P. Dagan, 'L'Art philosophique de Felix Nussbaum', in exh. cat., Felix Nussbaum, Paris, 2007, p. 37 (illustrated fig. 25, p. 36).

‘Max Beckmann: Hölle der Vögel’, in Künste im Exil, (virtual exhibition:; accessed 2017).




Käthe von Porada, Paris and Vence, by whom acquired directly from the artist circa 1938-1939.

Galerie Buchholz [Curt Valentin], New York (no. 7564), circa 1947.

Stephen Radich, New York.

Fine Arts Associates, New York.

Morton D. May, St Louis, Missouri, by whom acquired in 1957.

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1983.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.