ART JU­LIA WEINER Not get­ting the max­i­mu­mout of Max’s talent

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -


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

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