Progression of Art
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 Cézanne. 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
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-20th 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
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