The painter Max Weber was one of the first American artists to personally experience the art world in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century, a time of amazing transition in the history of art. In Weber’s case, this experience included meeting and learning from artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, and taking tea at the salon hosted by art collectors Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo… in other words he was in the heart of it.
After his return to the U.S. in 1909, Weber created a range of work that was influenced by the Cubists initially, but his style regularly evolved over his forty-year career. The MMFA’s most recent acquisition, using funds bequeathed by Ida Belle Young in 2007, is a painting by Weber created during the 1920s when he had moved to Long Island. (below: View of Roslyn, New York, ca. 1922-1925, oil on canvas) It is a landscape depicting the village of Roslyn on the north shore of Long Island, painted from a vantage point just across a body of water known as the Roslyn Pond. While representational (we can readily see trees, town, and pond), it is also clearly in keeping with the reductive tendencies of Modernism—buildings composed of simple geometric shapes and the rest a symphony of varied brushstrokes in green, blue, rust, and tan. Though he largely left Picasso’s Cubism behind, he maintained a love of the style of the French Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne, who created monumental landscapes in this same palette and with the same intent: to capture the soul of this peaceful place in paint.
When Weber moved to Long Island in 1921 he and his wife left the urban bustle of upper Manhattan for a quieter natural environment where they could raise a family. They purchased a small house about five miles south of Roslyn, and the artist purchased a car (he named it Dinky) so that he could drive the rural roads looking for likely subjects. The Museum’s painting View of Roslyn, New York, is one of a number of works he painted while he lived in this house near Garden City.
Our Museum collection has grown significantly with the additions made using the funds provided by Ida Belle Young’s gift. Most of these works were made in the nineteenth century and have helped to enhance and further shape the core collection of works given by Winton Blount in 1989, and expand the resources our educators use to teach about the development of American art. When the Weber became available, it was immediately clear that this painting was going to play a significant role in our collection—it opens a chapter that takes viewers into twentieth-century art and introduces the modernist approach to art and design that dominated in Europe and America for years to come. It is a much-needed addition to our collection, and we look forward to sharing it with our audiences when it is installed next month.
Arthur D. Chapman, Max Weber, 1914, platinum print, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-90145]
Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art