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Max Weber papers, 1902-2008

Biographical Note

Max Weber (1881-1961) was a painter and sculptor in New York City.
Weber was born in Bialystok, Russia. When he was ten years old his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. From 1898 to 1900 he attended Pratt Institute and studied theory and practice of design under Arthur Wesley Dow. After graduating he briefly taught drawing in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Duluth, Minnesota. In 1905 he moved to Paris to attend the Académie Julian, studying under Jean-Paul Laurens, and later attended classes at the Académie Colarossi and Académie de la Grande Chaumiere. In 1907 he attended Henri Matisse's studio class. The influence of Matisse and friend Henri Rousseau transformed Weber's painting style to include elements of cubism and fauvism.
Weber returned to New York in 1909, and over the next few years he frequently exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery 291. Initially his work was panned by American critics for being too modern. Despite criticism, Weber exhibited his work extensively in the 1910s and also began creating abstract sculptures. In 1914 he helped his friend Clarence H. White open the White School of Photography and taught art history there for four years. Also in 1914 his Cubist Poems were published in London. His second book of poetry Primitives was published in 1926.
In 1916 Weber married Frances Abrams. He began to explore narrative subjects in his paintings and in 1918 began carving woodblock prints. He also taught at the Art Students League for the 1919-1921 and 1926-1927 sessions. By the early 1920s he was recognized as an important American artist, serving as a leader in art organizations such as the Society of Independent Artists. In 1930 Weber became the first American modernist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
In the 1930s Weber became more active in political and socialist causes, participating in many organizations throughout the Depression and World War II. In 1937 he became the National Chairman of the American Artists' Congress. By the 1940s, his work was widely known and influenced a new generation of American painters. He continued to exhibit extensively, received many awards, such as the Temple Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and often served on art juries. In 1955 he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and received an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University. He died in Great Neck, New York, in 1961.