Max Weber, who helped transmit to America the knowledge of European modernist developments, was born April 18, 1881, in Bialystok, Russia (now Poland), to an orthodox Jewish family. When he was ten years old, his family immigrated to Brooklyn, where in 1898 Weber enrolled at the Pratt Institute, studying under Arthur Wesley Dow. In September 1905 he traveled to Paris; he studied at the Académie Julian under Jean Paul Laurens, the Académie Colarossi, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1908 he helped organize and participated in a small class that Matisse guided and critiqued. Weber visited the Paris Salon retrospectives of Cézanne and Gauguin (both in 1907), frequented the studios of Matisse and Picasso, visited Gertrude Stein’s salon, and was a close friend of Henri Rousseau. Weber exhibited his work in the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne.
In January 1909 Weber returned to New York were he brought new concepts home to an America unprepared for the dynamism, abstraction, and emotion of modernist art. After a brief and turbulent association with Stieglitz at Gallery 291, Weber supported himself by teaching at the Clarence H. White School of Photography (1914) and later at the Art Students League (1920–1921 and 1925–1927). The following year, he was selected to be the director of the Society of Independent Artists. A prolific writer, he wrote poems as well as articles and books on art theory. The Museum of Modern Art selected his work for a one-person exhibition in their inaugural year, 1930. Weber was the national chairman and honorary national chairman of the American Artists’ Congress from 1937 to 1940. An extensive survey of his work at the Associated American Artists Galleries in 1941 enjoyed critical and financial success.
As painter, poet, teacher, and activist, Weber was actively engaged until the end of his life in advancing the development, understanding, and expression of modern art in America. He continued to work diligently in a variety of media, including sculpture and graphic work, until his death in Great Neck, Long Island. The Collection contains works from two phases of Weber’s work: three from the 1920s when he worked in a representational, monumental style and four from his later expressionistic period.