Max Weber

The American painter Max Weber (1881-1961) sampled various styles, including cubism, before turning to representation in 1918. Thereafter, he developed a style which was personal and expressionistic but incorporated elements from his earlier, experimental phase.

Max Weber was born on April 18, 1881, in Belostok, Russia, the son of a tailor. In 1891 the family emigrated to America, settling in Brooklyn, N.Y. Max entered Pratt Institute in 1898; he took courses in manual training and art with a teaching career as his goal. After he graduated in 1900, he studied with Arthur Wesley Dow for a year. Weber then taught manual training and drawing in Virginia and Minnesota.

In 1905 Weber went to Paris, where he studied with Jean Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian and went to life classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumie‧re and Académie Colarossi. In 1907 he saw the Paul Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne. Weber soon acquired an interest in Fauve art and began to paint in a style inspired by it. In 1907 he helped form a class with Henri Matisse as its teacher and joined the class for a year. Weber exhibited in 1906 and 1907 at the Indépendants and in 1907 and 1908 at the Salon d'Automne.

In 1909 Weber returned to New York City. By 1912 his style had changed, as he embraced cubism more and more. His best-known work of this period is Chinese Restaurant (1915). Though it is an abstraction, he epitomizes in it the atmosphere of a restaurant, with tile floors, festive decorations, and frenetic waiters. His use of bright color and varieties of robust patterns allied him more with such cubists as Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger than Pablo Picasso or Georges Braque. By 1918 Weber had moved away from abstraction. His paintings of the 1920s and 1930s feature figures in compositions, which are Cézannesque, contemplative, and poetic. In the late 1930s he turned to the contemporary scene in such paintings as At the Mill (1939), The Haulers (1939), and The Toilers (1942).

Mindful of his Jewish heritage, Weber began to exploit Hasidic themes in a highly mannered, expressionist fashion. His giddy Talmudic scholars respond to the mildest occasion with an excess of agitation and bounce. One work in this style is Adoration of the Moon (1944). He had his first one-man show in New York City in 1909, was represented in the famous Armory Show of 1913, and exhibited regularly thereafter. In 1929 he moved to Great Neck, Long Island, where he died on Oct. 4, 1961.


Further Reading on Max Weber

The only generally available work on Weber is Lloyd Goodrich, Max Weber (1949). Discussions of Weber are in Jerome Mellquist, The Emergence of an American Art (1942); James T. Flexner, A Short History of American Painting (1950); Daniel M. Mendelowitz, A History of American Art (1960); and Samuel M. Green, American Art: A Historical Survey (1966).