Russian-American Jewish artist Max Weber (18811961) is widely acknowledged within the United States for introducing Cubism to New York. With Max Weber: An American Cubist in Paris and London, 190515, Ben Uri
unveiled the first major UK museum show of Webers work and the first to examine his career and influence within a European context.
This exhibition highlights Webers crucial role in the cross-cultural dialogue between Paris and London and his important influence on the British avant-garde during the first two seminal decades in the history of 20th Century European modernism.
Ben Uri is working with the University of Reading, whose generous loan of 14 rare and exciting Weber paintings, c. 19101912, initiated this exhibition, is at its core and has never previously been exhibited in its entirety. There is still very little American painting in UK public collections and no pictures at all by Weber outside the Universitys collection.
A small selection of works documenting Webers crucial early years in Paris (1905-09) opens the exhibition. In Paris, Weber was introduced to the work of Cézanne and met Picasso, Henri Rousseau and Matisse, becoming a founding member of the latters art class, where he executed works including Apollo in Matisses Studio, 1908 and the graphite Portrait of Matisse, 1908, before returning to New York in 1909.
Weber met the photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 ̶ 1966) in 1910. The two men shared a fascination for the New York skyline reflected in Coburns photographs and Webers dynamic cityscapes, including New York. They struck up a lifelong friendship, conducted through letters after Coburn settled in England in late 1912 and Coburn put together the collection of Webers work later bequeathed to the University of Reading. It also includes Coburns album of 79 photographs of Webers work (University of Reading Special Collections), together with an important portrait of Coburn by Weber (University of Reading Art Collection), and Coburns reciprocal photograph of Weber (from a British private collection that also once belonged to Coburn).
Webers exhibition with and influence upon the British avant-garde is also explored through his inclusion in Roger Frys first Grafton Group Exhibition at the Alpine Club Gallery, London in March 1913; six of the eleven Weber pictures shown (all but one from the Reading Collection) are included are in the current show. Also brought together for this exhibition are works by a number of the Grafton Group artists: Vanessa Bell, Frederick Etchells, Duncan Grant, Percy Wyndham Lewis and Fry himself, as well as other non-member exhibitors including Winifred Gill, C R W Nevinson and Helen Saunders, who all exhibited anonymously; along with a work on paper by the only other named artist, fellow foreigner, Wassily Kandinsky.
The exhibition has been co-curated by Professor Anna Gruetzner Robins (University of Reading) and Sarah MacDougall (Eva Frankfurther Research and Curatorial Fellow for the Study of Émigré Artists, Ben Uri).