Gabriel von Max The Christian Martyr, about 1867 Oil on paper affixed to paper Seattle, Washington, Frye Art Museum, Charles and Emma Frye Collection


From the 23rd of October 2010 to the 30th of January 2011 – The Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus

Gabriel von Max (1840–1915), artist, Spiritist and Darwinist, was a remarkable man and in many ways a paradigm of the later nineteenth century. His main interest was in the history of the development of the human race, its origins, essence and future. This exhibition in the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau Munich presents the first ever comprehensive overview of von Max’s entire work. Every facet of his rich imagination will be shown, from his artistic oeuvre to his work in natural history and ethnology and his esoteric interests. Max’s painting, research and work as a collector provide an encyclopaedic mirror of the art, culture and science of his time, and a spectacular visual encounter with various aspects of the nineteenth century.

Gabriel Max was educated in Prague, Vienna and Munich, and after the success of his 1867 painting “The Christian Martyr” he became one of the most influential artists in both Czech and Munich art circles. He created historical and character paintings with Christian, literary and mythological subjects, and was greatly admired as a “painter of souls” addressing the themes of love, religion, death and the afterlife. He worked out his own pictorial idiom for contemporary issues that then had no iconography of their own, including anatomy, vivisection and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Towards the end of the century Max concentrated more and more on his scientific interests, while creating countless symbolic and decorative pictures of girls and women for the art market. These works were increasingly criticized for being sentimental and extravagant. Yet at the same time his series of pictures of monkeys met with great acclaim. Max’s intensive work as a collector in the fields of anthropology, zoology, ethnology and prehistory resulted in a magnificently diverse and high-quality collection of over 60,000 objects, most of which are today held in the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in Mannheim.

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