Saturday, September 6, 2014

Max Liebermann

Samson and Delilah (Simson und Delila)
oil on canvas
151.2 x 212.0 cm
Stadel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Max Liebermann (1847-1935) was a German-Jewish painter, printmaker, etcher, and lithographer, active principally in Berlin. He is known for his naturalistic studies of the life and labour of the poor. He was also the foremost proponent of Impressionism in Germany. After 1890 his style was influenced by the French Impressionist painters Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.

From 1873 to 1878 he lived mainly in Paris, and together with Corinth and Slevogt he came to be considered one of the leading German representatives of Impressionism. In 1878 he returned to Germany, living at first in Munich and finally settling in Berlin in 1884. From 1875 to 1913 he spent summers painting in the Netherlands. During this period he found his painting subjects in the orphanages and asylums for the elderly in Amsterdam and among the peasants and urban labourers of Germany and the Netherlands.

In 1899 he became first president of the Berlin Sezession, but he did not keep abreast of developments and a decade later he was regarded as a pillar of the traditionalism against which the German Expressionists were in revolt. He was one of the dominant figures in the German art world and in the later part of his career he accumulated many honours. When the Nazis came to power, however, he was required to resign as president of the Prussian Academy and from his other prestigious positions.

He died in 1935, at his home on Berlin's Pariser Platz, near the Brandenburg Gate. Although he had been famous, his death was not reported in the media, now controlled by the Nazis. However, despite official strictures by the Gestapo, more than 100 friends and relatives attended the funeral. His widow committed suicide in 1943 rather than suffer at the hands of the Gestapo.