On this day in 1847, the great German painter Max Liebermann was born. I’m actually not that fond of his work. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I’m not that fond of his impressionism, which often strikes me as bad Manet. His portraits are rather interesting. And his one religious painting indicates that he really should have done more historical painting, although it wasn’t really the thing at the time.
If you want to be an artist, it really does help to have rich parents. I’m not talking Fred Koch rich, of course; that seems to just create spoiled brats who think the world ought to kneel down before them like David and Charles Koch. But high bourgeoisie, which gives you a good and worldly education, decent connections, and not so much money that you think it is all that matters. That’s exactly what Liebermann got, and perhaps somewhat more. He also had the advantage of being born in Berlin and not Texas.
Below is Liebermann’s one religious painting, The 12-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple With the Scholars. It caused quite a stir at the time. I guess it was blasphemy for a Jew to paint Jesus? Regardless, he didn’t like the uproar and never again did anything terribly exciting—and he had over 50 years to go.
Liebermann died at the age of 87 in 1935. By that time, the Nazis were in power. So even though he was quite famous, no mention of his death was made in the media. Over a hundred people came to his funeral, even though it was apparently illegal. It was only 1935, after all. The Nazis hadn’t fully systematized their hate. So Liebermann died at the right time.
Happy birthday Max Liebermann!