Beckmann was warmly welcomed in St Louis and was filled with energy for new ventures. During the summers he taught in Boulder, Colorado and in Oakland, California, and took the chance to explore the country. In 1949, he accepted a teaching position at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and moved to Manhattan. Beckmann’s renewed self-confidence and excitement is reflected in his use of vibrant colour in paintings such as Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket (1950). By applying paint in thin layers, he gave his work a certain freshness and lightness.
The triptych The Argonauts (1950) is Beckmann’s last great work. It is based on the Greek myth of a group of young heroes who set sail on the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.
In the central panel two Argonauts stand serenely before the open sea, with a marvellous conjunction of stars and planets hanging in the pink sky, ready to explore an unknown world. Their story might reflect Beckmann’s own turbulent journey through history, at a moment when he was calmly approaching the threshold of death, or, as he believed, a new level of consciousness. The day after putting the finishing touches to The Argonauts, Beckmann walked out from his New York home, heading through Central Park, towards the Metropolitan Museum, where his Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket was being exhibited. On his way he died, aged 66, of a heart attack.