Max Weber is noted for his theoretical writings and for the works he produced during his years in Paris and the decade following his return to America. Both his writings and art reflect his assimilation of the new European developments, including futurism and cubism, which Weber helped to convey to America. About 1918 Weber began gradually to modify his theoretical concerns; he abandoned his formal analysis of modernism to concentrate more on its spiritual and emotional content, which he evoked in his art by using an expressive style.
Phillips was drawn to Weber's use of color. Writing in A Collection in the Making he notes Weber’s "passionate protests of color and form"—but believed that his compositions were "rather over-insistent in their distortions." Asserting that Weber's cubist experiments during the 1910s were derivative, he preferred the later paintings. The collector first expressed interest in 1925, when he made a special point of seeing Weber's work at J.B. Neumann's Art Circle during a visit to New York. The catalyst for his attention had undoubtedly been the strong critical success of Weber's exhibition earlier that year at Neumann's. Phillips purchased two paintings, only one of which, High Noon, (1925), is in the Collection today. Although he preferred Weber's landscapes, he purchased Draped Head, (before 1923), the following year, because he wanted more figural works in the Collection, and perhaps also because it alluded to Weber's Jewish-Russian heritage.
By 1931 Phillips had added two still lifes to the Weber group, but his interest subsequently diminished, in part because of his belief that Weber was too easily influenced by "the dogma of what constitutes an authentic, orthodox modernist." His interest was not rekindled until 1941, when Weber exhibited at the Associated American Artists Galleries in New York. The impetus for Phillips's renewed attention was perhaps the positive critical attention Weber received for this exhibition. Phillips purchased three works from that show: Rabbi, (1940), Students of the Torah, (1939), and Colonial Bowl, (1938).
Inspired once again, Phillips now began to refer to his Weber holdings as a unit. In 1942, after having visited the Webers in late 1941, Phillips acquired a small gouache, Conversation, (ca. 1925–1935). The following year he added Last Snow, (ca. 1940), with the observation that the "Weber Unit contains only one small landscape and it is an early one."
Phillips most appreciated the artist's interest in portraying Judaic subjects. He regarded Weber as "an emotional and a spiritual artist who...only escaped the plight of eclecticism and meek discipleship on the fortunately frequent occasions when he painted deeply sincere and pious little pictures of religious mysticism." In such works, unlike his formal explorations in modernism, Phillips believed that we are "lured into the inner life" of the artist Weber.