Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (1927) is one of Beckmann’s most powerful and celebrated self-portraits. In confident pose, dressed in an elegant tuxedo, Beckmann directly confronts the viewer. The stark contrast of black and white heightens the austerity of the portrait. By now, Beckmann had achieved considerable success as an artist. He had frequent solo exhibitions in Germany, and his paintings and prints appeared in numerous international shows, including Zurich, London, Venice and New York. He had also been appointed to teach a master class at an art school in Frankfurt. His economic situation had improved considerably. He regularly spent holidays in Italy, and at resorts on the North Sea where he painted Scheveningen, Five a.m. (1928) and Bathing Cabin (Green) (1928).

As a young man, Beckmann had scorned the work of his French colleagues, particularly that of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, but now, recognising their genius, he was eager to compete with them. He frequently travelled to Paris, and from 1929-32, spent most of the winter months there. Influenced by the French avant-garde, Beckmann began to explore more abstract qualities in his art. For instance, in The Bath (1930) the perspective is distorted, so that objects in the foreground and background are given equal weight, while flat areas of black paint lend the painting a striking, abstract severity.