by Samuel D. Gruber
|Max Liebermann in his studio|
|Max Liebermann, Jewish Quarter in Amsterdam, (1905), from Max Liebermann from Realism to Impressionism, p. 94|
In conjunction with the course I am teaching this semester at Syracuse University, "The Holocaust, Memory, and the Visual Arts" I will be posting more frequently about artist suppressed, oppressed, exiled and murdered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. I'll also be posting more about the art of Holocaust Survivors and about Holocaust commemorative art and architecture.
Today is the anniversary of the death of the great German-Jewish painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935), In the first decades of the 20th century Liebermann achieved the rare status of being considered both a leading innovator and modernist in German art and also as the recognized leader of established German art institutions. In a certain sense, Liebermann lived long enough that his more "radical" and "foreign" French-inspired painting of the late 19th-century came - in the face of newer modern styles - to be seen as almost classic, and therefore widely acceptable throughout most segments of German society. As a Jew - even an extremely acculturated Jew - his fame and acclaim were unprecedented in German history. But his success did not last through his last years.
Liebermann suffered the indignity of exclusion in his last two years - which corresponded to the beginning of the Nazi regime. His death in February 1935, however, probably spared him real suffering in the years to come. In 1940, his widow Martha Liebermann, was forced to sell their villa, where Liebermann had painted his lush impressionist landscapes for decades. Then, on March, 1943, she was notified to get ready for deportation to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Aged 85 and bedridden from a stroke, she preferred to commit suicide in the family home, Haus Liebermann where today, there is a stolperstein for her in front of the home by the Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
Max Liebermann. 12 Year Old Jesus in Temple with Scholars
Drawing (top), Painting (below) (1879). From Max Liebermann from Realism to Impressionism p. 74
|Max Liebermann, View from the Tiergarten, (1900), pastel. from Berlin Metropolis, fig. 80|
|Max Liebermann. Samson and Delilah (1910). From Max Liebermann from Realism to Impressionism p. 77|
Despite his fame, his death was not reported in the Nazi-controlled media and there were no representatives of the Academy of the Arts or the city at his funeral.
Today, Liebermann is again included among the great German artists, and he is much celebrated for his cityscapes, landscapes and portraits. On 30 April 2006 the Max Liebermann Society opened a permanent museum in the Liebermann family's villa in the Wannsee district of Berlin.