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 Max Weber  (1881 - 1961)

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Lived/Active: New York / France/Russian Federation      Known for: cubist, futurist and fauvist painting-landscape, figure and still life

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Max Weber
from Auction House Records.
New York
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
One of the more stylistically pioneering of the early modernists, Max Weber was a key figure in introducing avant-garde* art to America. He worked in the mediums of oil, watercolor, printmaking and sculpture, and his subjects sometimes reflected the spiritualism of his religion.  His styles included Fauvism*, Cubism*, Dynamism*, Expresssionism*, and Futurism* and reflected the broad spectrum of revolutionary art activity in Paris at the turn of the 19th into the 20th centuries.

He also created some social-realist paintings during the 1930s with depictions of factory scenes. These works reflected his left-wing political leanings, which he expressed as national chairman of the American Artists Congress, "the most powerful left-wing artists' organization of the period" (Baigell). He was a writer on topics of modern aesthetics including "The Fourth Dimension from a Plastic Point of View", published in Camera Work in July 1910.

He was from a strong Jewish background, having been born in Bialystok, Russia, and in 1891, he settled in Brooklyn.  At the Pratt Institute*, he studied with Arthur Wesley Dow from whom he learned to see forms as visual relationships rather than objects.  He taught public school art in Lynchburg, Virginia from 1901 to 1903, and Duluth, Minnesota from 1903 to 1905, and then studied in Paris at the Academie Julian, Academie Colarossi, and Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.

He was much influenced by Cubist artists Pablo Picasso and George Braque and then returned to New York in 1909, where he experimented with many modernist styles.

He was among the first American artists to show an interest in Indians of the American Southwest, and in 1913, his one-man exhibition at the Newark Museum was the first exhibition of an American museum for a modernist artist.

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, S-Z):
Born in Bialystok, Russia, on April 18, 1881, Max Weber immigrated to the United States with his mother and brother in 1891 to join his father in Brooklyn. At sixteen, Weber enrolled at the Pratt Institute, where he studied with Arthur Wesley Dow, a proponent of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. Dow’s theories of art and design and his interest in Far Eastern painting were important influences on Weber’s artistic development. The young artist continued studying with Dow for a year following graduation until Dow moved to Virginia and, later, Minnesota to assume teaching positions.

In 1905 Weber entered the atelier of Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian in Paris but quickly found the emphasis on classical form and drawing from plaster casts rather than live models too constricting. He left in 1906, having made the acquaintance of other progressive artists, notably Abraham Walkowitz, who would become a good friend, Dunnoyer de Segonzac, and Hans Purrman. Weber briefly attended the Académie Colarossi, but his discovery of Cézanne at the Salon d’Automne in 1906 marked a turning point in his development. In response, his paintings began to display larger, paint-laden brushstrokes and more abstract forms.

Weber exhibited works in the 1906 and 1907 Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne. He shared a passion for Persian miniatures with Matisse and entered the master’s class in 1908. Weber drew nude figures from the models in Matisse’s studio and experimented with freer, Fauve-inspired color and sketchier forms.

Lack of funds forced Weber to return to the United States in 1909. He made the rounds of several galleries before his friend Edward Steichen introduced him to Alfred Stieglitz, one of America’s earliest and most influential advocates for the modernist movement. Weber shared his firsthand knowledge of European modernism. Stieglitz, in turn, supported the young painter financially. Broad brushstrokes, heavy, broken outlines, and flattened spaces characterize Weber’s work of this period.

Weber participated in the 1910 “Younger American Painters” show and several one-man shows at 291, Stieglitz’s New York gallery. At the time, critics and the public failed to appreciate Weber’s forward-thinking formal distortions. Today, Weber’s ability to marry the lessons of European modernism and American urban subject matter is viewed as his most significant contribution to twentieth-century art.

Weber adhered to a Cubist-Futurist style until roughly 1919. Following World War I, spiritual and religious themes and a more expressionistic style emerge in Weber’s work. Later, in the 1930s and beyond, Weber created many lyrical portrayals of people who shared his Eastern European origins. He used the figure to experiment with line, color, and space.

Numerous shows after 1912 in both Europe and America eventually secured Weber public recognition and financial success. Weber had a one-man show at the Newark Museum in 1919, becoming the first American avant-garde artist to be exhibited at a museum. The Museum of Modern Art in New York held a mid-career retrospective in 1930. Weber is represented in many public collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

© Copyright 2007 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Mark Borghi Fine Art Inc - New York:
Max Weber was born in 1881 in Bialystok, Russia, and came to the United States at the age of ten. Weber spent his childhood in New York, then four years studying art in Paris before permanently settling in New York in 1909. It is not a coincidence that the "Cubist decade" of 1910-1920 began with Weber's return to New York.

He was one of the first Americans to bring modernism to the United States, and the style of his work beginning in 1910 was very Cubist. Needless to say, critics did not welcome this new approach, mostly because they did not understand it. Artists, on the other hand, found the works inspirational and very intellectual.

Weber's most popular paintings were of New York. He saw New York, and the city in general, as a symbol of intellectual, cultural, and technological sophistication. It is somewhat ironic, then, given the complexities of a city and the technology that inhabits it, that Cubism broke those elements down to the spare, essential shapes and forms.

Weber tired of Cubism after 1920 and subsequently developed a more realistic style. Throughout his artistic career, Weber had many friends who were photographers, such as Alfred Stieglitz. Photography influenced Weber's art, both in his Cubist stage and afterwards. Photography has the ability (or limitation) of making three-dimensional objects two-dimensional. Cubism was a movement that had dimension as a key aspect, as did realism although in a very different manner.

Weber's pioneering work in America was a result of many influences. Weber took from Henri Matisse his use of color, Paul Cezanne's use of space, and Pablo Picasso's proto-cubist style. Despite these well-known influences, Weber was able to carve out a niche for himself in the aforementioned cityscapes.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Max Weber’s artistic vision first developed at the Pratt Institute under Arthur Dow, who introduced his students to nonwestern aesthetic traditions.  After leaving school, Weber began teaching, hoping to raise enough funds to travel abroad.  In 1905 he was in Paris, one of the first American artists to be directly influenced by European modernism.

He studied at the Académie Julian (where he met Abraham Walkowitz), Académie Colarossi, Académie de la Grande Chaumiere, and with Henri Matisse and Jean-Paul Laurens.  In his travels through Europe, he not only learned more about western art traditions but also absorbed African and Asian art. (1)

His Parisian circle of friends included Pablo Picasso, Robert Delauney, André Donoyer de Segonzac, and Henri Rousseau.  Weber could not have arrived in Paris at a more opportune time.  Matisse was exploring the brilliant colors of Persia; Picasso was experimenting with the planar surfaces of African masks and beginning to develop the theories of what became known as Cubism.  Weber understood and appreciated these new ideas, but was most influenced by Paul Cézanne’s unique depiction of space in paintings he saw at the Salon d’Automne in 1906 and 1907. (2)

Although Weber produced a series of cubist-inspired abstract paintings from 1915 to 1918, after 1919 all of his work was representational;  his subjects were still life, landscape, and genre scenes of recent immigrants and the working class.

From the 1940s on, Weber developed a more emotional, expressionist approach in his work.  When he returned to the United States in 1909, his new style of painting brought hostile reactions.  The next year he met Alfred Stieglitz, art dealer and photographer, who understood Weber’s modernist vocabulary.  Stieglitz provided Weber with moral and financial support and exhibited his work with a handful of contemporary American modernists. (3)  Weber assisted Stieglitz by organizing exhibitions.

However, the artist’s association with Stieglitz would be short-lived, for he continued to develop independent theories of modern art and soon fell out of favor with Stieglitz and his circle.  Weber was invited to participate in the Armory Show in 1913, but he withdrew after learning that only two of his pictures had been accepted, whereas eight or ten images by his French counterparts would be exhibited. (4) But the slight was soon forgotten. That same year Weber had a successful solo show at the Newark Museum of Art, the first ever devoted to an American modernist artist.

He experimented with sculpture, both figurative and abstract, and wrote poetry and treatises on modernist theories.  He exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.


1. Anne N. Bolin, The American Collection: Selected Works from the Norton Museum of Art Collection (West Palm Beach, Fl: Norton Museum of Art, 1995): 119.

2. Abraham A.Davidson, Early American Modernist Paintings, 1910-1935 (New York: De Capo Press, 1994): 29.

3. Stieglitz’s Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, or 291, as it was more commonly known, was an important factor in the rise of modern art in America.  Few individuals have exerted as strong an influence on twentieth-century American art and culture as photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz.  He brought modern European art to the United States, organizing the first exhibitions in this country of works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Paul Cézanne, among others.  He was one of the first to champion and support American modernist artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, and photographer Paul Strand.

4. Milton W.Brown, The Story of the Armory Show (New York: Joseph Hirshhorn Foundation, 1963): 121.

Submitted by the Staff, Columbus Museum

Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired):
Max Weber, one of America's most important pioneers of modernism, was born in Bialystok, Russia, in 1881. He emigrated with his family to the United States in 1891, settling in Brooklyn. Intent on pursuing an artistic career, he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in 1898. He spent the next two years studying under Arthur Wesley Dow, known for his progressive attitude toward avant-garde art. Under Dow's tutelage, Weber was introduced to Japanese and primitive art forms as well as to the work of such Post-Impressionists as Paul Gauguin.

From 1901 until 1905, Weber held various teaching positions in order to save enough money for additional study in France. In the latter part of 1905, he travelled to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens. He also attended the Académie de la Grand Chaumiere and the Académie Colarossi. However, perhaps most vital for his development was the first-hand exposure to the work of Cézanne, Gauguin and the Fauves via both exhibitions and personal contact. In 1908, he studied briefly with Matisse and was strongly influenced by the master's arbitrary use of color and distorted forms. He also familiarized himself with the cubism of Picasso and Braque and the orphism of Robert Delaunay.

Weber returned to New York in 1909. He immediately produced a number of paintings in which he combined the intense colors of fauvism with primitive figural elements. In 1910, he was included in Alfred Stieglitz's Young American Painters Exhibition, where he was singled out by critics for both his distortions of form and non-naturalistic color (making him, in essence, the most advanced of the young painters). During the 1910s he drew his stylistic inspiration from Cubism and Futurism, producing his famous "cubo-futurist" views of New York. Indeed, his exploration of this still tentatively-accepted aesthetic made him the foremost practitioner of Cubism in America.

In the 1920s, Weber concentrated on a series of large-scale nudes, not unlike those produced by Picasso and Cézanne. Towards the end of the decade he moved towards a more personal style in which he emphasized the spiritual nature of such subjects as still life, landscape scenes of Jewish life and later workers and refugees. Around 1940 his work became further distorted and expressionistic.

In addition to his activity as a painter, Weber also produced some of the first abstract sculpture in America, as well as numerous woodcuts. He was a member of such organizations as the American Artists Congress, the Society of Independent Artists and Modern Artists. He died in Great Neck, New York in 1961. Representative examples of his work can be found in major public and private collections throughout the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Chicago Art Institute, Illinois; Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery, LLC, and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery, LLC. It may not be reproduced without written permission from Spanierman Gallery, LLC, nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery, LLC.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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