Today in Yiddishkayt… July 20
Birthday of Max Liebermann, Painter & Printmaker
Max Liebermann was born on July 20, 1847 to a Jewish family in Berlin. He began capturing his immediate environment on paper at the age of nine and when the renowned Berlin painter Carl Steffeck saw Liebermann’s drawings a few years later, he decided to take him on as a pupil. Liebermann first studied law and philosophy at the University of Berlin, but later studied painting and drawing at the Weimar Akademie in 1869. During the Franco-Prussian war from 1870-1871, he served as a medic with the Order of St. John near Metz. He spent the years 1873 to 1878 in Paris and the artist colony of Barbizon. There he studied the art of Millet, whose paintings of farm workers had a strong influence on him. Like the Realist painters he greatly admired, Liebermann often painted rural laborers and scenes of everyday life. Believing that “painting should be the exploration of art as the honest study of nature,” Liebermann hoped that his depictions of the working classes would bring about social reform.After living and working for some time in Munich, he finally returned to Berlin in 1884, where he married and remained for the rest of his life.
Liebermann was the leading artist in Berlin by the early 1890s. He became a much sought-after portraitist and also painted landscapes, scenes of the bourgeoisie. Liebermann also used his own inherited wealth to assemble an important collection of French Impressionist paintings, and brought new attention to Impressionism in Germany. From 1899 to 1911 he led the premier avant-garde formation in Germany, the Berlin Secession. In 1920, he was appointed president of the Prussian Academy of Art, the highest artistic institution of the Weimar Republic. In 1933 he resigned when the academy decided to no longer exhibit works by Jewish artists. He became severely ill in 1934 and died three months on February 8, 1935.