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Artists Max Weber
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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

"Art has a higher purpose than mere imitation of nature. It transcends the earthly and measurable. It has its own scale and destine. It is concerned with informing spirit that emanates only from spiritual and mystical realms, from the nether and the astral. A work may be ever so anatomically incorrect or 'distorted' and still be endowed with the miraculous and indescribable elements of beauty that thrill the discerning spectator."

Max Weber Signature

Synopsis

Born in Russia, Weber emigrated with his family to New York as a child. His earliest artist training was with Arthur Wesley Dow, who encouraged his students to reject traditional narrative painting in favor of new explorations of expression and form. Weber was one of the first American artists to incorporate "primitive" influences into his work. He also studied in Paris at the Academie Julian, where he learned from contemporary Fauve and Cubist painters (even took classes with Henri Matisse) and became friends with Henri Rousseau. Weber would be responsible for Rousseau's first exhibition in America and he also helped to introduce Cubism to an American audience after his return to New York in 1909. Friends with many experimental artists in Paris, Weber was responsible for sending the first of Picasso's paintings to America for exhibition.

Despite his early success in France, Weber often felt that his work was unappreciated and his prickly response alienated him from many colleagues and potential supporters. Although he was once a central member of the Stieglitz circle, even living at Stieglitz's 291 Gallery when he was very poor, the men had a falling-out in the early 1910s; he was excluded from the Armory Show when he protested the small number of works he was invited to submit. In his later years, Weber turned to more representational, often expressionistic renderings of Jewish life and culture.

Key Ideas

In Paris, Weber was a founding member of the New Society of American Artists and formed part of a transatlantic network of painters. He greatly admired the work of C├ęzanne, whose paintings he discovered at the salons hosted by Gertrude and Leo Stein. Returning to America, he was linked to the Stieglitz circle and taught at the Clarence H. White School of Photography and the Art Students League, where he popularized theories of abstraction and expressionism (he is cited as having importantly influenced Mark Rothko).
When first exhibited in New York, Weber's paintings were a shocking introduction of European avant-garde ideas. His celebration of primitivism, both in the exploration of non-Western art and the naive work of Henri Rousseau, broke with traditional sources for artistic inspiration. As one of the first American painters to embrace Cubism, exhibitions of Weber's work predated the 1913 Armory Show and introduced the fractured, non-perspectival style to New York, to much early disdain. While unpopular with critics, these abstractions cemented his reputation among the avant-garde as one of the most daring and experimental painters in New York.
The expressive quality of Weber's abstractions was underscored by the publication of his 1916 book, Essays on Art. This text circulated modernist ideas, arguing for the spiritual significance of art that reproduced experiences rather than just reproducing images.
Despite the widespread skepticism his work provoked, Weber did enjoy support from important museums and curators. His 1913 exhibition at the Newark Museum was the first solo show of modern art in an American museum and his 1930 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art was that institution's first solo show of an American artist.

Most Important Art

Max Weber Famous Art

Still Life (1911)

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.
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Content compiled and written by Sarah Archino

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Archino
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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