Max Weber – The Lonely Cubist
Max was born in the Polish city of Bialystok, then part of the Russian Empire. When he was 10, his Orthodox Jewish parents emigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn. He studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn under Arthur Wesley Dow, a progressive teacher in a time of conservative art. Dow had met Paul Gauguin, was a student of Japanese art, and a supporter of the advanced modernist painting and sculpture.
Weber used the money he earned by teaching art in New York to travel to Europe, where he spent several years socializing with modernists and studying new techniques. In 1909 he returned to New York to introduce Cubism to America...
Now he is considered one of the most significant American Cubists, but then the critical reception of his works New York at the time was extremely negative. His exhibition at the 291 gallery in 1911 became "one of the most merciless critical whippings that any artist has received in America."
The reviews were almost invariably absolutely devastating. Even James Gibbons Huneker, an influential critic who usually tried to be sympathetic to new art, used a cruel joke to describe his impressions after viewing Weber's works: "The operation was successful, but the patient died."
Weber's only support came from some of his influential peers, such as photographers Alvin Langdon Coburn and Clarence White, and museum director John Cotton Dana, who helped Weber set up a one-man exhibition at the Newark Museum in 1913, the first modernist exhibition in an American museum!
In 1948, Look magazine reported on a survey among art experts to determine the greatest living American artists; Weber was rated second, behind only John Marin.
One of the reasons of such lack of support for Weber from other painters, evidently, was his extremely difficult personality: even his allies noted upon his intolerance and extreme opinions. Many American modernists kept their distance from him, especially after he reportedly told one of them that there were only three great modern painters: Cézanne, Rousseau, and himself.
Weber died in Great Neck, New York, at age 80.
Percy North, Max Weber: The Cubist Decade, 1910-1920
Max Weber, Retrospective Exhibition, 1907-1930: March 13-April 2, 1930, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Plandome Press. 1930
Clint B. Weber, The Biography of Wilhelmina Weber Furlong: The Treasured Collection of Golden Heart Farm (Weber Publishing Co., 2012)