Max Liebermann (1847-1935) is credited with introducing Modernism to German painting. For the first time, a new exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle
presents a comprehensive retrospective revealing how this process took place and the impressive oeuvre Liebermann was executing at the time. Disillusioned by German academia, the young Berliner turned to France and Holland where he immersed himself in the progressive trends of the day. Liebermann studied outdoor painting in Barbizon, the cradle of naturalism; in Paris he came into contact with French Impressionism and in Holland he met supporters of The Hague School. In taking what he absorbed there and allowing it to flow into his work, Liebermann entered new territory both stylistically and in terms of subject. Liebermanns rendition of simple rural labor without literary and historical references drew harsh criticism at first, eventually culminating in the epithet filth painter. As cofounder and president of Berlin Secession Liebermann became the engine of an oppositional movement opposing the Prussian-Wilhelmine art policy.
This comprehensive retrospective unites over one hundred paintings from all phases of his creative development. They range from rustic, rural subjects to depictions of bourgeois leisure activity to his unerring portraits and the late, color-drenched garden paintings. Complementing the Hamburger Kunsthalles large holdings are several other key pieces on loan from national and international museums, supplemented by work generously loaned from private collectors. The show is rounded off with examples of work by Liebermanns influences Mihaly Munkácsy, Adolph Menzel, Paul Cézanne and Auguste Renoir. A separate room is dedicated to Liebermanns pastel works with its Hamburg motives from the collection of the Kunsthalle.
The exposure to Liebermanns work in German museums in the time of National Socialism is presented in a documentary way in a separate room of the exhibition. There will be a film on display portraying the artist and the part on Liebermann of the film Schaffende Hände (producing hands) (1922) of Hans Cürlis will be shown. Liebermann is also present with his voice in the radio broadcast Aus meinem Leben (From my life) (1932).