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Max Weber

Russian-American Painter, Printmaker, and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Cubism, Early American Modernism

Born: April 18, 1881 - Bialystok, Russia (present-day Poland)

Died: October 4, 1961 - Great Neck, New York

Max Weber Timeline

Important Art by Max Weber

The below artworks are the most important by Max Weber - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Still Life (1911)
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Still Life (1911)

Artwork description & Analysis: Weber's still life incorporates elements of Cubism through the flattened pictorial space and multiple points of view. This is particularly evident in the draped background, which is depicted as intermingling with objects in the foreground, blending objects and space.

Weber adopts the nearly monochromatic palette of early Cubism, as well, which furthers adds to the confusion of spatial depth. Traditional in its subject, this arrangement is rendered in bold brushstrokes that create a sense of life and movement while the overall portrayal reveals the influence of Cezanne. Although other American artists would come to incorporate these elements in their abstract paintings, Weber was the first to understand, incorporate, and build upon French Cubism in his work.

Oil with charcoal or chalk on canvas - Art Institute of Chicago

Chinese Restaurant (1915)
Artwork Images

Chinese Restaurant (1915)

Artwork description & Analysis: At first glance, this composition might seem to be a completely abstract array of colors and shapes, but when analyzed with the title in mind, recognizable components of the titular setting begin to emerge: the wall, the black-and-yellow tiled floor, faces, etc. Harnessing the energy of Cubist abstraction, Weber's painting conveys not only these details of a Chinese restaurant, but conjures the bustling atmosphere and quick pace of urban life.

Weber himself explained this painting in sensorial terms, writing: "On entering a Chinese restaurant from the darkness of the night outside, a maze and blaze of light seemed to split into fragments the interior and its contents, the human and inanimate. For the time being the static became transient and fugitive - oblique planes and contours took vertical and horizontal positions, and the horizontal and vertical became oblique, the light so piercing and so luminous, the colors so lucid and the life and movement so enchanting!"

In the early twentieth century, Chinese restaurants were becoming a popular fixture in lower Manhattan. Not only were these neighborhoods the epicenter of immigrant communities, but also frequented by artists who appreciated an inexpensive meal. The Chinese restaurant became part of bohemian social experiences and was doubtlessly part of Weber's world.

This painting shows a solid understanding of Cubist principles in the fragmentation of forms, suggestions of objects through components of shape and color, and the fracturing of planes and space into facets. Weber also incorporates collage elements, blurring the lines of reality and illusion, similar to the collages of Picasso and Braque during the early 1910s.

Oil, charcoal, and collages paper on linen - Whitney Museum of American Art

Adoration of the Moon (1944)
Artwork Images

Adoration of the Moon (1944)

Artwork description & Analysis: As a child in the Jewish town of Bialystock, Weber's early memories were centered in old world religious iconography and tradition. His father, Morris Weber, left the family for America when Max was five years old. The artist later recalled the personal significance of the monthly celebrations of the new moon: as the men would gather to pray, he would think of his father who could see the same crescent from his home in New York. The family would be reunited in New York when Max was ten.

In his later years, Weber turned away from abstraction in favor of figurative paintings that often drew inspiration from his Jewish heritage and childhood memories. Here, the four men gathered have an otherworldly quality, their elongated bodies recalling the Byzantine decorations common in Weber's hometown.

Oil on canvas - Whitney Museum of American Art



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Related Art and Artists

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
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Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting was shocking even to Picasso's closest artist friends both for its content and its execution. The subject matter of nude women was not in itself unusual, but the fact that Picasso painted the women as prostitutes in aggressively sexual postures was novel. Picasso's studies of Iberian and tribal art is most evident in the faces of three of the women, which are rendered as mask-like, suggesting that their sexuality is not just aggressive, but also primitive. Picasso also went further with his spatial experiments by abandoning the Renaissance illusion of three-dimensionality, instead presenting a radically flattened picture plane that is broken up into geometric shards, something Picasso borrowed in part from Paul Cezanne's brushwork. For instance, the leg of the woman on the left is painted as if seen from several points of view simultaneously; it is difficult to distinguish the leg from the negative space around it making it appear as if the two are both in the foreground.

The painting was widely thought to be immoral when it was finally exhibited in public in 1916. Braque is one of the few artists who studied it intently in 1907, leading directly to his Cubist collaborations with Picasso. Because Les Demoiselles predicted some of the characteristics of Cubism, the work is considered proto or pre Cubism.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra) (1907)
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Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra) (1907)

Artist: Henri Matisse

Artwork description & Analysis: Matisse was working on a sculpture, Reclining Nude I, when he accidentally damaged the piece. Before repairing it, he painted it in blue against a background of palm fronds. The nude is hard and angular, both a tribute to Cézanne and to the sculpture Matisse saw in Algeria. She is also a deliberate response to nudes seen in the Paris Salon - ugly and hard rather than soft and pretty. This was the last Matisse painting bought by Leo and Gertrude Stein.

Oil on canvas - The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection

Four Darks in Red (1958)
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Four Darks in Red (1958)

Artist: Mark Rothko

Artwork description & Analysis: In 1969, Rothko exhibited ten paintings at the Sidney Janis Gallery; Four Darks in Red were among those shown. With its dark, restricted palette, the picture exemplifies Rothko's late-period gravitation towards reds and browns. It established a prototype for the dark red/brown/black palette and horizontal composition that he would later use in the uninstalled Seagram Building paintings. Although the imagery of pictures like Four Darks in Red seems far distant from that of Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea (1944), Rothko believed that the rectangles merely offered a new way of representing the presences or spirits that he tried to capture in those earlier works. "It was not that the figure had been removed," he once said, "..but the symbols for the figures... These new shapes say.. what the figures said." In this way, Rothko imagined a kind of direct communion between himself and the viewer, one which might touch the viewer with a higher spirituality.

Oil on canvas - Whitney Museum of American Art

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