“Utterly Bourgeois”: Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Max Liebermann

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Max Liebermann (1847–1935) – the best-known German-Jewish artist, the most important representative of German impressionism, president of the Berlin Secession and the Academy of the Arts – produced almost seventy self-portraits in his lifetime.

Painting of a man wearing a suit and a straw hat

Max Liebermann, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Distance as a Guiding Principle

In most of them, Liebermann depicted himself in a suit, meticulously recording the changes in his facial appearance with matter-of-fact restraint. Communicating current moods in these portraits was not his style – distance was a way of life for him, a man who described himself as “utterly bourgeois.”

A Touch of Resignation and Melancholy

In this late self-portrait, the artist also presents himself as bourgeois in his dark suit. He is also wearing a Panama hat, as in many of the photos taken in the summer house at Wannsee. Two years after celebrating his 80th birthday and receiving great honors, the artist painted himself here with a touch of resignation and melancholy, no doubt in part due to his age but also to the political circumstances of the time.

Personal Dedication

The small format and the close detail give the painting a personal feel which is further emphasized by the dedication "with gratitude" to the dentist Joseph Gruenberg. And yet, the figure's countenance is as bourgeois as ever.

Title Self-Portrait with Straw Hat
Artist Max Liebermann
Collection Fine Arts
Location and year of origin Berlin, 1929
Medium Oil on wood
Dimensions 50 x 39,5 cm

Max Liebermann

More on Wikipedia

Liebermann Villa

Today the artist’s summer house on Lake Wannsee is a museum specializing in artworks Lieberman created there and the story of his family.
To the Website of the Liebermann-Villa

Berlin Secession

The Berlin Secession school of artists was founded in 1898 as a breakaway from the previously dominant academic art sector and played a central role in German Impressionism.
More on Wikipedia

Academy of Arts

This artists’ association was founded in 1696, making it one of the oldest European cultural institutions.
More on Wikipedia
Academy of Arts website

Selected Objects: Fine Arts Collection (12)

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