Max Liebermann – The Path to Modernism

Max Liebermann (1847-1935) was not only a major German Impressionist artist, but a leading pioneer of modern German painting as well. Liebermann helped to initiate a revolution in art, was a witness to the “Golden Twenties,” and experienced the rise of National Socialism. His importance for German art and cultural history does not rest solely on his creative achievement, but also on his activities in the realm of cultural politics. He defied prescribed norms and conventions, consistently following his own path. Once Hitler ruled Germany, his life as a Jew was a desperate one. His wife Martha was driven to her death by the system of German fascism.

Today, Liebermann inspires broad public enthusiasm. His artistic oeuvre – which extends from the 19th into the 20 centuries – provoked vigorous controversy, but ultimately opened the path toward modernism in Germany. His paintings are devoid of aggression – they are expressions of refined humaneness. Liebermann’s early works were deemed a provocation by the upper stratum of Wilhelminian society in particular for the matter-of-fact way in which he depicted humble people engaged in their daily labors in a way that endowed them with inner dignity. For decades, he faced stubborn opposition, but in the end, he was the recipient of high honors.

The Berlin painter Max Liebermann is closely associated with Hamburg and with the Hamburger Kunsthalle. In 2019, the Hamburger Kunsthalle celebrates its 150th anniversary, and is marking the occasion with a major exhibition whose special focus is the art of Liebermann.

The documentary “Max Liebermann – The Path Toward Modernism” illuminates Liebermann’s biography, his creative achievement, and the influence exerted by his personality and his art, both of which reflect the sociopolitical era within which they emerged. Secondly, it highlights the vital connections between Max Liebermann and the city of Hamburg and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, without whose advocacy he may never have achieved such celebrity.

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