Bourgeois Leisure

  • Max Liebermann (1847-1935) Reiter und Reiterin am Strand, 1903
    Max Liebermann (1847-1935)
    Reiter und Reiterin am Strand, 1903
  • Max Liebermann (1847 -1935) Abend am Uhlenhorster Fährhaus, 1910
    Max Liebermann (1847 -1935)
    Abend am Uhlenhorster Fährhaus, 1910
  • Max Liebermann
    Max Liebermann (1847-1935)
    In den Zelten, 1900/22

A thematic shift became noticeable in Max Liebermann's work starting in the 1890s. While the artist had observed the working class population in their day-to-day activities at the start of his career, he was now interested in bourgeois leisure motifs. The choice of subject matter now appeared to coincide with the artist's own lifestyle habits. Thus Liebermann follows middle-class or upper middle-class people not only at the beach, on the polo field or the racetrack, but begins to observe them more and more on the terraces of restaurants, in beer gardens and parks. From then on, light acts as a key player in Lieberman's pictorial world, lending it its impressionistic effects. This is especially visible in the characteristic of the sunspots on the floor, which evoke an exceptional vibrancy in combination with what seems to be the exquisitely fresh painting style. Yet as opposed to the French Impressionists who dissolved the objects in their compositions in the shimmering light, Liebermann's paintings largely preserve not only their contours, but also their tangible qualities.
The French Impressionists elevated the motif of summertime swimmers to a subject worthy of depiction. Their primary interest lay in the constantly-shifting phenomena of nature, an enthusiasm shared by Liebermann. Liebermann's scenes of bathing, strolling and horseback-riding summer guests in a maritime setting show a change in the artist's personal and painting styles. He succeeds – in Riders at the Beach, for example – in capturing a distinguished couple's ride with delicate brush strokes, or similarly the movement of man and animal in Grooms on the Beach.

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