Saturday, May 17, 2008


Max Liebermann (Germany, 1847–1935)
The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple with the Scholars, 1879
Oil on canvas, (150.5 x 132 cm)
Hamburger Kunsthalle

Max Liebermann (Germany, 1847–1935)
Study of the painting "The twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple with the Scholars" 1878.
Chalk drawing
22,7 x 11,7
Private collection South Germany

Max Liebermann (July 20, 1847 in Berlin - February 8, 1935) is regarded as the foremost proponent of Impressionism in Germany

He led the premier avant-garde formation in Germany, the Berliner Secession. Beginning in 1920 he was president of the Prussian academy of arts.

With the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, he was ousted from the Presidency of the Academy, his paintings were removed from all German museums, and he was forbidden either to exhibit or to work.

After his death in 1935, his house was looted and his collection stolen and scattered.

The artist's wife, Martha Liebermann, was forced to sell the home in 1940. In 1943 she committed suicide in the family home, Haus Liebermann, hours before police came to arrest her.

He painted The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple with the Scholars, in 1879. The painting we now see is not as it was originally painted.

When first exhibited at Munich’s First International Art Exhibition in 1879, the painting provoked a controversy.

Originally he painted the boy Jesus in a Realist style -- as a barefoot Jewish urchin, dark and swarthy, conspicuously using his hands to argue doctrine with his elders.

The art critic for the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung, Friedrich Pecht, declared that Liebermann had painted “the ugliest, know-it-all Jewish boy imaginable,” adding that the artist had shown the Jewish elders as “a rabble of the filthiest haggling Jews.”

It was debated in the Bavarian Parliament and condemned as blasphemous and anti-Christian. The Crown Prince of Bavaria was said to have been outraged

The uproar seems to have been caused by a Jew painting an explicitly Jewish Jesus.

In a later canvas he toned down Jesus' Semitic appearance, giving him blond hair, softer facial features and less emphatic gestures. This is the one we see now.

Fritz von Uhde bought and kept the painting until 1911

The painting was not exhibited again until the Berlin Secession exhibition of 1907. .