Our forthcoming exhibition celebrates the life of Herbert Beck (1920-2010) with a retrospective of his late work. Though born the son of a jeweller, Beck pursued his passion for painting once settled in Tegernsee in 1948. During this time his prepossessing style garnered significant attention in avant-garde circles, which afforded him many opportunities to show throughout Europe. Beck became a student of the renowned German Expressionist Emil Nolde, whom he met at his 1952 exhibition at the Galerie Commeter in Hamburg. It was through this relationship that Beck developed many of his theories on the abilities of watercolour to provoke emotional responses in the viewer. Through these experiments in water and pigment, Beck garnered a reputation among critics for moving the boundaries of the expressionist style beyond exaggerated perspectives and colour ranges. Leonard Hutton, the well-known New York Gallerist who promoted both New York and German schools of Expressionism, labelled Beck the ‘second generation’ of German Expressionists in his 1989 exhibition for the artist.
In the abstract landscapes and organic compositions presented here, we see Beck’s process of giving freedom to his inner expression. Because these works find no precedent in nature but only in Beck’s mind’s-eye, there is a transcendence of time and space inherent in the compositions that draws upon notions of the sublime. These sentiments are further compounded by the sheer scale of Beck’s work. There is an enveloping quality in the artist’s work that the viewer cannot help but succumb to. This permeation of luminescence is both particular to Beck’s oeuvre and a departure from one’s usual expectations of the watercolour technique. It is what also moves his legacy beyond that of his teacher and entrenches him in the canon of great Expressionists of the 20th century.