Beckmann trained at the Weimar Academy of Art. First examples of his work demonstrate a conservative style that was set to change following the artist's personal experiences in the First World War. Thenceforth Beckmann produced brutalized images of physical and psychological horror, for example "The Night" 1918-19.
During the 1920's Beckmann demonstrated a strong influence by medieval art in his work, and his previous war subjects were replaced with more encompassing humanitarian themes. His work was part of the 1925 "Neue Sachlichkeit" exhibition in Mannheim. His most famed works are his allegorical triptych pieces such as "The Departure" 1932-5; now owned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1927 Beckmann moved to Amsterdam before later relocating to America in 1947.