The foremost painter of the German School of Impressionism, Liebermann was a co-founder of Die Gruppe XI, and in 1898 of the Berlin Secession, a group which provided a forum for German artists who wanted to be free of the traditional academic confines.
Max Liebermann was born on July 20, 1847 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Jewish industrialist Louis Liebermann and his wife Philippe. In 1859, the Liebermann’s and their four children moved to a palatial home at Pariser Platz. Already as a nine year old, Max displayed considerable talent in drawing scenes from his environment, and received lessons by renowned painters Eduard Holbein and Carl Steffeck until 1869, when he entered the Weimar Academy with the encouragement of Steffeck. Liebermann studied in Weimar until 1872, and after a trip to Düsseldorf in 1871, where he met Hungarian painter Mihály Munkácsy, he painted his first large painting “Die Gänserupferinnen”, a work very much inspired by Munkácsy’s Realism. Liebermann went on to study and live in France from 1873 to 1878, in Paris and the Barbizon artist colony. He also took frequent trips to the Netherlands beginning in 1871, and the biggest influences on his work were Jean Millet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and the Dutch painter Frans Hals.
Liebermanns’s portrayal of the life and work of the simple man in an unpretentious way did not win him much acceptance, and it was only when he turned to scenes of bourgeois life that he won broader acclaim. He lived in Munich from 1878 to 1884, where he co-founded “Die Gruppe XI” as a protest against the closing of an avant garde exhibition in Munich. In 1884 he returned to Berlin, where he continued as an important figure in the art world, co-founding the “Berlin Secession” through his studies of the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Liebermann chaired the organization from 1898 to 1911. He was appointed a professor at the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin, and served as President of the Prussian Academy for the Arts from 1920 to 1932.
Max Liebermann became severly ill in 1934, and died in 1935, in the Wannsee District of Berlin where he lived. Thankfully, he was spared to witness the removal of his work from German museums by the Nazi regime.