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Max Weber: Bringing Paris to New York exhibition opens at the Baltimore Museum of Art
Max Weber. Interior of the Fourth Dimension. 1913. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Natalie Davis Spingarn in memory of Linda R. Miller and in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1990.78.1. © Estate of Max Weber.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art has organized a focus exhibition on one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century. Max Weber: Bringing Paris to New York presents nearly 40 paintings, prints, and drawings by Weber, Matisse, and other artists who influenced Weber to transform his painting style from traditional to avant-garde. On view March 3 – June 23, 2013, the exhibition includes many works lent by the estate of Max Weber and other public and private collections, as well as major works by Weber and Matisse from the BMA’s collection. The exhibition is guest curated by Weber scholar Percy North, Professor of Art and Coordinator of Art History at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, and Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“The BMA’s Max Weber exhibition is the result of several fortuitous Baltimore connections—Weber’s national reputation was launched in Baltimore in 1915, the Cone sisters collected works by Weber and his mentor Henri Matisse, and the leading scholar on Weber lives in this area,” said BMA Director Doreen Bolger. “We are delighted to present this rare opportunity to see Weber’s influences and transformation.”

Weber began his three-year sojourn in Paris in 1905, and his studies with Matisse and friendships with Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau inspired him to develop a personal style that evoked the energy, dynamism, and technological advancements of the early 20th century. Outstanding paintings shown from this pivotal phase of Weber’s career include My Studio in Paris (1907), a glimpse of his private world in Europe and the beginning of Matisse’s influence; The Apollo in Matisse’s Studio (1908), demonstrating why he was one of the best students in Matisse’s class; and Burlesque #2 (Vaudeville) (1909), a combination of fauvist and cubist influences. The exhibition also brings together for the first time Matisse’s Blue Nude (1907) and Weber’s Figure Study (1911), a direct response to Matisse and Picasso; and both the painting and watercolor study for Interior of the Fourth Dimension (1913), a cubo-futurist depiction of New York.

Through the artworks he brought back from Paris, Weber also became one of the first to introduce examples of Modernism in the United States. Some of the works in the exhibition by other artists from Weber’s own collection are Still Life (1908), the first painting by Picasso to enter the U.S.; Study for View of Malakoff, Outskirts of Paris (1908) an important painting given by Rousseau that Weber loaned to the seminal 1913 modern art exhibition at the New York Armory; and Reclining Nude (1907), a ceramic tile painted by Matisse that includes a figure reminiscent of the Blue Nude. Additional highlights include an abstract sculpture and woodcut by Weber, and a selection of never-before exhibited drawings.

Weber in Paris
Russian-born Max Weber had begun a career as an art teacher when his artistic aspirations led him to Paris in 1905. For three years, Weber immersed himself in the European avant-garde art world, attending exhibitions and visiting Gertrude and Leo Stein’s legendary Saturday soirées where he encountered paintings and drawings by Paul Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso. Although he enrolled in classes at the Académie Julian, Weber sought more innovative training and became one of the founding members of Matisse’s class in 1908.

Weber in New York, Baltimore, and Beyond
When Weber returned to the United States in 1909, he was dismayed that the exciting new art he had seen in Paris was virtually unknown in America. He introduced his cubist-inspired paintings in Younger American Painters, a ground-breaking exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291, and was vilified in the press. Weber began to gain acceptance a few years later when he received a solo exhibition at the Newark Museum in 1913. After a successful show at New York’s Print Gallery in 1915, Weber was invited to present the same exhibition at the Jones Galleries in Baltimore, which became his first solo exhibition outside of the New York area. A news clipping called it “the most exciting art event of the season” and said that crowds were “flocking to see it.” Feature articles appeared in the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Evening News, and reviews were more sympathetic than those in New York. Weber’s reputation grew with subsequent exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe, and in 1930 he became the first American artist to receive a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the 1940s, his work was introduced to households across the country through features in Life, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Weber at the BMA
Weber was invited by The Baltimore Museum of Art in 1942 to be a juror for an exhibition and also received a small solo show at the museum, Paintings by Max Weber. He returned to the BMA as a juror in 1948, the same year he was selected as one of the best artists in the country by a poll of art professionals in Look magazine. On a trip to Washington D.C. in 1958, Weber visited the Cone Collection at the BMA and raved to his wife about Cézanne’s painting Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry (c. 1897). His work was eventually eclipsed by the growing popularity of Abstract Expressionism, especially after the 1960 Venice Biennale organized by BMA Director Adelyn Breeskin. Weber died the following year, but recognition for his contributions to innovations in American art continues through numerous exhibitions like the one presented by the BMA this spring.

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