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Max Liebermann

German Painter

Max Liebermann Photo
Movements and Styles: Impressionism, Realism, Art Nouveau

Born: July 20th, 1847 - Berlin, Germany

Died: February 8th, 1935 - Berlin, Germany

"Just as the artist - in Schiller's fine words - receives his rules from the object, meaning from nature, so should an art historian support his claims through the laws of the art work itself."

Summary of Max Liebermann

Liebermann is widely celebrated as both a forerunner of German Impressionism and as the founder of the influential avant-gardist Berlin Secession. Drawing on the techniques of French Impressionism and the Dutch Hague School, his naturalistic painting departed from the traditional methods and genres of academic German art. Galvanized by the paintings Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, he began to experiment more and more with light and color on canvas. But while his formal approach became secondary to subject matter (as it was for the French masters), Liebermann always remained true to the narrative traditions of German art. Indeed, his art drew upon a wide range of subjects, from the travails of hard manual labor, to the leisure pastimes of bourgeois German society. In the autumn of his career, Liebermann led the Berlin Academy, and was elected its president until the Nazis came to power and forced him to resign his position shortly before his death.

Key Ideas

One of Liebermann's key influences and mentors was Jean-Francois Millet, co-founder of the French Barbizon School. His adopted thus the painterly codes of naturalism which permeate his early paintings of rural peasant life and of the hardships of manual "workhouse" labor. Yet Liebermann was able to transform his material into something more personal without resorting to the glorification of his subjects (as was the charge often levelled at Millet).
Liebermann left behind his early commitment to Realism in favor of a more spontaneous, impressionistic approach. He addressed himself to the challenge of representing the themes of the urban leisure and recreational activities of Berlin's bourgeois classes with a new vivacity. In his new commitment to representing what was familiar in a new way, he turned towards a more varied color palette which he applied using less refined brush strokes.
A thematic feature of Liebermann's later period was his liking for open spaces. Liebermann tended to resist painting pure landscapes, however, preferring to punctuate his scenery with spontaneous observational, or "anecdotal", details and movement. This narrative characteristic in Liebermann's work has sometimes seen him associated with the German Realist Adolph Menzel who was known for his keen senses of observation and his skill at capturing the essence of everyday German life.
In addition to his narrative paintings, Liebermann is less well known as a painter of portraits, this despite the fact that he accepted over 200 commissioned portraits of distinguished figures from the fields of commerce, science and politics during his lifetime. His most famous sitters were the world-renowned physicist Albert Einstein, and the second president of the Weimar Republic, Paul Von Hindenburg.
Max Liebermann Life and Legacy

The second child of four, Max Liebermann was born in 1847 in Berlin to Louis Liebermann, a wealthy Jewish manufacturer, banker and councilor, and Philippine Liebermann (née Haller). In 1860, The Liebermann family bought the "Dannenberg'sche Kattun-Fabrik", one of the leading

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