Max Liebermann

Max Liebermann
(1847 - Berlin - 1935)

Sunday Afternoon in Laren – Churchgoers in Laren, 1898

Oil on canvas, 113 x 152 cm
Signed lower right M. Liebermann

Berlin art trade, 1898;1
Private collection, Berlin, 1900;2
Albrecht Guttmann, Berlin, 1911-17;3
Berlin, Galerie Cassirer, auction sale, May 18, 1917, Moderne Gemälde – Die Sammlung A. Guttmann und Nachlass eines Berliner Sammlers, lot 46, hammer price 53,010 marks (sale book: to ‘M. Schwersenz, Berlin’;
Martin Schwersenz, Berlin (1863-1943), May 18, 1917;4
Alfred and Gertrud Sommerguth, Berlin and New York, acquisition date unknown, owners until December 12, 1944. The painting was in the keeping of Fritz Nathan, St. Gallen, Switzerland, from 1940 until December 1944;
Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, purchased from Fritz Nathan for 7,500 Swiss francs on December 12, 1944;
Hans Soraperra-Blattmann (1889-1969), Zurich, purchased from the above in 1945;
Galerie Norbert Nusser, Munich, acquired from the above in October 1958;5
Georg Schäfer private collection, Schweinfurt, inv. 69353687, purchased from the above in 1958;
Private collection, Germany;
Settlement agreed on behalf of the heirs of Alfred and Gertrud Sommerguth in 2018.

Max Liebermann (1847-1935). Gemälde - Handzeichnungen - Graphik, Zurich, Galerie Aktuaryus, April 8-May 2, 1945, no. 15;
Max Liebermann en Holland, The Hague, Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1980, no. 31;
Zij waren in Laren, Laren, Singermuseum, 1989-90, no. 85, repr. p. 11.

Max J. Friedländer, Max Liebermann, Berlin 1898, p. 94, fig. 46;
Hans Rosenhagen, Max Liebermann, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1900, p. 97, fig. 103;
Adelbert Matthei, ‘Der ästhetische Genuss am Bauwerk’, in Friedrich Pecht (ed.), Die Kunst für alle, Munich 1901, repr. p. 168;
Emporium, XVIII/107, Bergamo 1903, repr. p. 326;
Gustav Pauli (ed.), Max Liebermann. Des Meisters Gemälde, Stuttgart and Leipzig 1911, p. 252, repr. p. 120;
Karl Scheffler, Max Liebermann. Mit 100 Abbildungen nach Gemälden, Zeichnungen und Radierungen, Munich 1912, p. 70, repr. p. 105;
Erich Hancke, Max Liebermann, sein Leben und seine Werke, Berlin 1914 and 1923, p. 355, p. 538, repr. p. 357;
Alfred Gold, ‘Max Liebermann - Berlin’, in Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Darmstadt, 20/3, December 1916, p. 34, repr. p. 37;
Der Cicerone, 9/1-2 , January 1917, p. 281;
Karl Scheffler, Max Liebermann, Munich 1922, p. 94, repr. p. 93;
Gustav Pauli (ed.), Liebermann. Eine Auswahl aus dem Lebenswerk des Meisters, Stuttgart and Berlin 1922, repr. p. 45;
Max J. Friedländer, Max Liebermann, Berlin 1925, repr. p. 94;
Hans Rosenhagen, Max Liebermann, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1927, p. 68, fig. 53;
Max Liebermann in seiner Zeit, exhib. cat., Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen and Haus der Kunst; Berlin, Nationalgalerie 1979-80,
p. 556;
Matthias Eberle, Max Liebermann 1847-1935. Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde und Ölstudien, I: 1865-99, Munich 1995, p. 482, no. 1898/5.

Max Liebermann, disenchanted as a young man with the traditionalism of German academic practice, shifted his interest to progressive artistic developments in Holland and France. In Barbizon, the cradle of Naturalism, he studied plein-air painting. In Holland, he was in close contact with the landscape painters of the Hague School, and in Paris, with the French Impressionists. With what he absorbed and assimilated on his own artistic quest, he would break new ground both stylistically and thematically. Initially, his depiction of simple peasant working life free of literary and historical references drew harsh criticism. In Berlin he advanced to be the driving force in opposition to Prussian-Wilhelminian artistic dictates.

From 1874 until the outbreak of the First World War Liebermann spent his summers in Holland, which he described as his Malheimat. The art historian Max J. Friedländer noted: Liebermann lives the life of a bourgeois in Berlin and a painter in Holland.6 Here he got to know a large number of artists, such as August Allebé and his pupil Jan Veth, and members and associates of the Hague School of painting like Jozef and Isaac Israëls, Jacob and Willem Maris, Anton Mauve and Jan Toorop.7 That he was made an honorary member of the Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij8, in 1892 testifies to the depth of those contacts.

The present large-format painting Sunday Afternoon in Laren, or Churchgoers in Laren is based on a range of earlier versions and studies of the subject that Liebermann had worked on intensively since the early 1880s.9 The motif of the group of young women had already interested him some time before his first stay in Laren in 1884 while honeymooning with his wife Martha. The couple stopped in Laren to visit an artists’ colony known as the ‘Laren School’.10 Jozef Israels – with whom Liebermann enjoyed a close artistic friendship – accompanied them on their visit.11

The painting depicts a group of young women walking down a wide, tree-lined avenue in Laren on a Sunday afternoon. Liebermann had a predilection for views of figures strolling under tall trees beneath a canopy of foliage. Such images appear frequently in his oeuvre. Leading the group are five young women, some wearing white bonnets and others brown hats. They walk arm in arm in lively conversation, followed by two other women. They are all dressed in traditional gray smocks and white aprons. A group of three young men can be glimpsed in the far right background. Earlier sketches and studies of the motif show that Liebermann had originally planned to depict a much larger group of male onlookers.

In this painting Liebermann has focused on the depiction of dappled light filtering through the canopy of foliage along the avenue. Accents of sunlight heighten the aprons and faces of the young women. In the late 1880s his painting underwent a stylistic shift, a transition from Naturalism to Impressionism. This was also reflected in his collecting activities. He owned an extensive art collection, acquiring his first Impressionist painting in 1892. Working with Hugo von Tschudi, who was named Director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1896, he campaigned energetically to obtain recognition for French Impressionism in Germany.12

1 See Max J. Friedländer, Max Liebermann, Berlin 1898, p. 94, fig. 46.

2 See Hans Rosenhagen, Max Liebermann, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1900, p. 97, fig. 103.

3 See Matthias Eberle, Max Liebermann 1847-1935. Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde und Ölstudien, I: 1865-99, Munich 1995, no. 1898/5, p. 482.

4 Schwersenz set up as a Kommissionär für Kunstsachen [commission agent for art objects] in Berlin in 1916 and worked as an art and antiques dealer. His firm was deleted from the Berlin business register in 1937. He was of Jewish origin and documents show that he was a target of Nazi persecution.

5 See Weltkunst, 28/20, 1958, p. 61 (this is a print advertisement for Kunsthandlung Norbert Nusser & Sohn in Munich. The advertisement features an illustration of the present painting and is captioned: “Max Liebermann ‘Sonntagnachmittag in Laren’.1898. Öl/Lwd., 147x110 cm, sign.”).

6 Max J. Friedländer, Max Liebermann, Berlin 1924, p. 42.

7 See Max Liebermann und die Holländer, exhib. cat., Hanover, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum; Assen, Drents Museum, Zwolle 2006.

8 Dutch drawing society, based in The Hague.

9 Matthias Eberle, Max Liebermann 1847-1935. Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde und Ölstudien, I: 1865-99, Munich 1995, nos. 1882/24-26, 1894/13-14 and 1896/7-8.

10 See Anna Wagner, Max Liebermann in Holland, Bad Honnef 1973, p. 21.

11 See Barbara Gaehtgens, ‘Holland als Vorbild’, in Max Liebermann, Jahrhundertwende, exhib. cat., Berlin, Alte Nationalgalerie, 1997, pp. 88-90.

12 See Thomas W. Gaehtgens, ‘Liebermann und der Impressionismus’, in Max Liebermann, Jahrhundertwende, op. cit., pp. 93-4.

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