Coffee terrace in Nikolskoye, Berlin

Max Lieberman

Coffee terrace in Nikolskoye, Berlin
Coffee terrace in Nikolskoye, Berlin

Max Liebermann (born July 20, 1847 died February 8, 1935) is an outstanding painter and graphic artist, a recognized master of German art of the second half of the XIX first third of the XX century. The biography of Max Lieberman is full of interesting events; a harmonious combination of strict realism and light impressionism is clearly traced in his work. Many paintings by the great master of painting depict the daily work of ordinary people.

Max Liebermann lived a long life, had a tremendous influence on the German painting of his era and, despite the circumstances, achieved recognition not only in Germany, but also far beyond its borders. Having immense authority among his colleagues, he was for 20 years at the head of the “Berlin Secession” an innovative association of German artists, and then for 13 years was president of the German Academy of Arts.

Max Lieberman. Beer garden in Munich
Beer garden in Munich

Biography of Max Lieberman

Max Liebermann was born into the family of a wealthy Jewish industrial magnate in Berlin on July 20, 1847. Parents raised their three sons in severity and did not welcome Max’s passion for art. But still, the father allowed the boy to attend painting lessons of Carl Steffeck.

Studying at school did not attract the future artist at all, exact sciences were hard for him and he constantly had to listen to the ridicule of his classmates. But for painting, Max quickly showed an undoubted talent, already at the age of 13, the premiere show of his drawings took place. But the father forbade his son to sign his paintings with his real name.

Dunes in Noordwijk. Max Lieberman
Dunes in Noordwijk

years of education

After receiving a school certificate, Max, at the insistence of his parents, continued his studies at the oldest Humboldt University in Berlin. As a student of the chemistry department, the young man often skipped classes, for which he was expelled from the university in January 1868. This event was the reason for a serious conversation with his parents, after which young Lieberman finally acquired the opportunity to study painting at the Weimar Academy of Arts.

In 1870, with the outbreak of the war with France, the young painter, on a wave of patriotism, voluntarily went to the front as an orderly. The horrors of the carnage deeply shocked Max and changed his attitude towards the war for many years.

Max Lieberman. Flax spinning machines in Laren
Flax spinning machines in Laren

Later Lieberman returned to a peaceful life and left for Dusseldorf, where he met and befriended Mihály Munkácsy.

The Hungarian artist’s style of painting captivated Max, which manifested itself in many of his early works of the genre, painted in dark colors.

In 1873 Lieberman set out to conquer the center of European painting Paris. He became the owner of his own workshop in Montmartre and planned to meet French painters. But the Parisian bohemia coolly accepted the foreigner, and his works were mercilessly smashed by local critics.

A summer trip to Barbizon in 1874 was a landmark event for Max Liebermann. The creativity of the representatives of the Barbizon school, especially the work of Jean-François Millet, made an extremely strong impression on him. As a result, the color palette of the artist’s works changed, in which light shades began to prevail.

Max Lieberman. Flowers at the gardener's house
Flowers at the gardener’s house

In search of creative inspiration, Lieberman visited Italy and the Netherlands over the next few years, and then decided to finally settle in Germany. The artist was officially married to Martha Markwald in 1884, who became his faithful companion until his death. In 1889, Max Liebermann was invited to take part in the Paris Exhibition.

This time the artist’s works were highly appreciated by critics, he was even awarded an honorary medal and accepted into the “Union of Fine Arts”. And the master refused the offer to become a Knight of the Legion of Honor, following the persistent wishes of the leadership of Prussia.

In 1892 Liebermann became the head of the Berlin Secession, which united German artists who opposed academic art. He led this creative union of German followers of Impressionism until the end of 1911, retiring at the age of 64. At the same time, the master continued to create, creating dozens of works in the characteristic sunny style.

Garden bench. Max Lieberman
Garden bench
The tragic events of the First World War and the revolution that followed it became a serious test for the already middle-aged painter.

But life went on, and in 1920 Max Liebermann was elected president of the Prussian Academy of Arts, under whose wing the wise master tried in vain to reconcile artists of different creative directions.

His efforts were not crowned with much success, but no one tried to challenge the artist’s merits in the field of German fine arts. Lieberman gradually became a living legend, he was respectfully called “the elder of German Art Nouveau”, and the inhabitants of Berlin awarded the master the title of “Honorary Citizen of the Capital”.


In 1933, the Nazis came to power in Germany, who began to pursue an extremely aggressive policy towards modern art. In protest against the world famous book burning on Berlin Square, Lieberman resigned as president of the academy.

The last 2 years of his life, the painter lived quietly in his Berlin home, completely abandoning active political and creative activities. On February 8, 1935, 87-year-old Max Lieberman passed away. The Nazi authorities of the Third Reich banned the news of the death of the artist from printing in newspapers, and no one from the leadership of the Academy of Arts came to the funeral. Only the closest friends and relatives, despite the ban of the Gestapo, decided to pay their last respect to the master.

Rider on the shore
Rider on the shore
The most famous paintings by Max Lieberman

The genius German artist, who has worked in landscape, household and portrait genres for over 70 years, left a huge creative legacy to his descendants. The master’s works today adorn the best private collections and expositions of museums in the world, and their sale at art auctions is always of great interest. Among the most famous paintings by Max Lieberman, the following works can be safely attributed:

“Women Plucking Geese” (1872) is an example of the initial stage of creativity, in which the influence of classical Dutch painting is clearly visible.

“Twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple” (1879) a work that caused a flurry of fierce criticism in Germany. The common people called this work a desecration of the Lord and arranged a lengthy persecution of the author.

“Nursing Home in Amsterdam” (1880) a painting in which the master’s transition to the impressionist style of painting is clearly visible.

Country House in Hilversum (1901) a work with a traditional impressionist plot on the theme of a country garden. In it, the author managed to masterfully display the play of light and shadow.

Swimming boys
Swimming boys