Biography

Max Liebermann (1847–1935)

1847
Max Martin Liebermann is born in Berlin on 20 July. His father, the Jewish industrialist Louis Liebermann, is one of the leading textile manufacturers on the European continent.

1868
Begins his studies at the Grand Ducal Art School in Weimar, Saxony.

1871/72
End of the Franco-Prussian War and foundation of the German Empire under Wilhelm I (1797−1888).

Liebermann takes the first of numerous trips to Amsterdam and Scheveningen. Extended sojourns in the Netherlands were to become an important source of inspiration and an annual feature in the artist's life until 1914.

He paints Women Plucking Geese, his first major painting, which earns him an ignominious reputation as a 'painter of filth'.

1873–1878
Sojourn in Paris, where Liebermann encounters the plein-air painting of the Barbizon School and joins the wider plein-air movement.

1878−1884
During a four-year stay in Munich Liebermann produces his first history painting, The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple, which provokes a violently anti-Semitic reaction.

1884
Return to Berlin, marries Martha Marckwald (1858−1943).

1885
Birth of his only daughter Marianne Henriette Käthe (1885−1952) who was to marry Kurt Riezler.

1889
Liebermann is appointed to the jury of the Exposition Universelle in Paris. The National Gallery in Berlin is the first museum to acquire a painting by the artist –The Flax Barn at Laren of 1887

1892−1897
Foundation of the Union of the XI, a progressive artists' association that opposed the conservatism of the academies. As the leading figure of the liberal modernist school, Liebermann leaves his mark on the discussion of Modernism in Germany.

He turns his back on his accustomed Dutch-inspired proletarian subjects and replaces them with motifs of bourgeois pastimes. He embraces the luminosity of the French Impressionists without, however, adopting their technique.

1897
To mark his 50th birthday Liebermann is honoured with a first major retrospective exhibition in Berlin. He is appointed professor at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin.

1898/99
Foundation of the Berlin Secession as an alternative to the ossified academy. Max Liebermann becomes its president. He is at the zenith of his career and the painter of choice of the liberal bourgeoisie.

1907
Liebermann's 60th birthday is celebrated with major exhibitions in Berlin, Frankfurt/Main and Leipzig.

1909-1912
Liebermann moves into his summerhouse on the Wannsee. In collaboration with Alfred Lichtwark, director of the Kunsthalle Hamburg, he lays out the extensive gardens along the lines of progressive ideas on landscape design. The result is a gesamtkunstwerk of clearly structured garden spaces that were to provide Liebermann's favourite motifs over the years to come.

1914−1918
The First World War ends with the proclamation of the Republic on 9 November 1918. Over the course of the following years Liebermann gradually withdraws from public life – retiring to his splendid apartment on Pariser Platz and his beloved lakeside house at Wannsee.

1920–1933
Liebermann is appointed President of the Prussian Academy of Arts, an institution he once vehemently and vociferously opposed. His controversial presidency puts him at the very heart of the cultural scene of the Weimar Republic.

1927
On the occasion of his 80th birthday he is showered with honours.

1933
Adolf Hitler is appointed chancellor on 30 January. Max Liebermann resigns from the Prussian Academy of Arts and accepts the honorary presidency of the Culture League of German Jews.

1935
Max Liebermann dies on 8 February in his house on Pariser Platz in Berlin.

1943
Threatened with deportation, Martha Liebermann commits suicide hours before police arrive on 5 March in Berlin. She dies on 10 March at the Jewish Hospital Berlin.

 

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