Gabriel von Max
West Bohemian Gallery Plzeň
25 February - 8 May, 2011
For many years the work of Gabriel Max (1840-1915) was languishing in obscurity. Since the 1970s, it has slowly become a source of inspiration again, mostly due to its focus on extreme states of mind, irrationality and mysticism and, last but not least, its formal qualities as well. Max is considered as a direct precursor of the main art tendencies of the fin de siècle, Symbolism and decadence, and also an artist who in some aspects anticipated Surrealism.
Max was the son of the sculptor Josef Max and the nephew of the sculptor Emanuel Max, and the activities in the field of sculpture in the middle of the 19th century centred around their studios. Gabriel Max studied figurative painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Vienna and Munich where he settled for good, in 1869 he founded his own studio there and from 1879 to1883 he worked as a professor of historical painting. He focused on religious, mythological and historical subjects but he also worked as a portrait painter and illustrator. He travelled through Belgium, Holland, Italy and France. He became an acknowledged artist during his lifetime, he was awarded many important prizes at exhibitions in Vienna, Munich and Berlin and had the support of many rich collectors. He did not lose contact with home, he showed regularly from 1869 at the exhibitions of Krasoumná jednota. The writer Jan Neruda, his contemporary, called him "a genius artist and a darling of the Czech public".
A monograph is published along with the exhibition. It reflects on the work of Max as well as his influence on other Czech artists (E. K. Liška, Lev Lerch, and Jakub Schikaneder).
Curators of the exhibition and editors of the monograph are Roman Musil, Aleš Filip.