ART JULIA WEINER Not getting the maximumout of Max’s talent
MAXWEBER:ANAMERICAN CUBIST IN PARIS AND LONDON 1905-15
Ben Uri, London NW8
MA X WEBER i s c r e di t e d with i n t r o d u c i n g Cubism to the USA with works i n s p i r e d b y what h e h a d learnt in Paris in the early 1900s. He is of particular interest to Jewish audiences as from 1919 onwards, he did a number of paintings of Williamsburg’s Chasidic community. But sadly, the Ben Uri exhibition focuses on his early years, before he became interested in Jewish subjects.
Weber’s work has only been represented in one UK public collection, at the University of Reading, which has loaned all 14 of its Weber works to the exhibition. A few of the paintings are really outstanding. The first shows studentspaintinginMatisse’sstudiounder the great master’s tutelage. Weber’s depiction of the plaster cast they are copying shows how much he has learnt from Matisse’s bright and highly unrealistic use of colour, the light and shade depicted in glowing tones of purple and turquoise. Also on show is a charming pencil sketch of Matisse which shows he was almost as gifted with line as his better-known master.
BackinNewYork,WeberusedCubism to capture the modernity of the city. His painting of the Big Apple is all soaring skyscrapers whose rectangular silhouettes contrast with the rounded, more natural forms of trees and clouds.
The problem is that the rest of the works suggest only that he was a minor follower of Cezanne and Picasso and fail to reveal how innovative an artist Weber could be. This is not helped by the fact that the exhibition has been bulked out by including works in a similar style by members of London’s Bloomsbury Group, whose art was shown alongside Weber’s in a 1913 London exhibition.
In fact, returning to New York, Weber produced some memorable Cubist paintings which explored other aspects of the city’s modernity including the subway, department stores and Chinese restaurants. While Ben Uri should be credited for organising the first Weber exhibition here, I hope we can soon see a selection of his work that will better demonstrate his true importance.
New York (1912) from the Max Weber exhibition — An American Cubist in Paris and London 1905-15