1847 – Berlin – 1935
”Der Witwer”. 1873
Oil on panel. 62,7 × 46 cm. (24 ⅝ × 18 ⅛ in.) Signed and dated lower left: M. Lieberman[n]. 73. Catalogue raisonné: Eberle 1873/1.  Framed
ProvenanceArt dealership Honrath & van Baerle, Berlin / Carl Spindler, Berlin (since 1873?, presumably until 1902) / Walter Spindler, Isle of Wright (presumably from inheritance received, at least until 1914) / Galerie Hielscher, Munich (1956 presumably near Kunsthallens Auktioner, Copenhagen, acquired) / Dorle Kühl / art dealership Wolfgang Werner, Bremen/Berlin / Private Collection, Berlin (acquired from Wolfgang Werner)
EUR 250.000 – 350.000
USD 291,000 – 407,000
337,500 EUR (incl. premium)
ExhibitionPermanente Ausstellung in der Commandantenstraße Berlin. Berlin, Verein Berlin Künstler, 1873 (under the title „Vaterfreude“) / Ausstellung deutscher Kunst aus der Zeit von 1775–1875. 2 vols. Berlin, Königliche National-Galerie, 1906, vol. 1 (Auswahl der hervorragendsten Bilder), ill. p. 216, and vol. 2 (catalogue of the paintings), p. 340 and p. 342, cat. no. 1047 / Max Liebermann. Wegbereiter der Moderne. Hamburg, Hamburg Kunsthalle, 2011/12, cat. no. 5, ill. p. 103 / Max Liebermann. Een zomers impressionist. Den Haag, Gemeentemuseum, 2018, p. 88, ill. p. 89
Literature and IllustrationBruno Meyer: Von den Berlin Ausstellungen (Schluß). In: Kunst-Chronik, vol. VIII, no. 30, 9.5.1873, Sp. 474-479, here Sp. 477-478 (under dem Titel „Vaterfreude“) / Otto Feld: Max Liebermann. In: Nord und Süd, vol. LXIX, issue 207, June 1894, p. 309-313, here p. 311 („Die Waise“) / Hans Rosenhagen: Liebermann. Bielefeld und Leipzig, Verlag von Velhagen & Klasing, 1900 (= Künstler-Monographien, in Verbindung mit anderen hrsg. v. H. Knackfuß, vol. XLV), ill. p. 7 / Gustave Kahn: Max Liebermann. In: Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. II, 1901, no. 26, p. 285-298, here p. 290 / Rudolf Klein: Max Liebermann. Berlin, Bard, Marquardt & Co., 1906, p. 56 and p. 134 (Liste der Hauptwerke) / Karl Scheffler: Max Liebermann. Munich and Leipzig, R. Piper & Co., Verlag, 1906, ill. after p. 4 / Gustav Pauli: Max Liebermann. Des Meisters Gemälde in 304 Abbildungen. Stuttgart and Leipzig, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1911 (= Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben, Neunzehnter Band), ill. p. 13, p. 243 and p. 256 / Karl Scheffler: Max Liebermann. Mit 100 Abbildungen nach Gemälden, Zeichnungen und Radierungen. Munich, Verlag R. Piper & Co., 1912, ill. p. 43 / Erich Hancke: Max Liebermann. Sein Leben und seine Werke. Berlin, Bruno Cassirer, 1914, p. 68 and p. 528 (Werkkatalog) / Léonce Bénédite: La peinture au XIXième siècle d'après les chefs-d'œuvre des maîtres et les meilleurs tableaux des principaux artistes. Paris, Flammarion, 1920, p. 326 / Karl Scheffler: Max Liebermann. Mit 124 Abbildungen nach Gemälden, Zeichnungen und Graphik. Munich, Piper, 4. edition 1922, ill. p. 41 / Erich Hancke: Max Liebermann. Sein Leben und seine Werke. Berlin, Bruno Cassirer, 2nd edition 1923, p. 68 / Hans Ostwald: Das Liebermann-Buch. Berlin, Paul Franke Verlag, 1930, p. 312 and p. 313, ill. 156 / Auction catalogue. Kopenhagen, Kunsthallens Auktioner, 27./28.9.1956, cat. no. 157, ill. p. 4 / 120. Auction. Munich, Weinmüller, 19.5.1969, cat. no. 265, ill. pl. 11 and on the cover of the catalogue / 691. Auction: Moderne Kunst bis ca. 1945 [...]. Cologne, Kunsthaus Lempertz, 26.5.1993, cat. no. 294, colour plate 3 / Katrin Boskamp: Studien zum Frühwerk von Max Liebermann mit einem Verzeichnis der Gemälde und Ölstudien von 1866–1889. Hildesheim–Zürich–New York, Georg Olms Verlag, 1994 (= Studien zur Kunstgeschichte, vol. 88), cat. no. 25 / Wolfgang Leicher: Die Ausstellungen der Werke Max Liebermanns zwischen 1870 und 1945 von Max Liebermann. In: Max Liebermann. Briefe. Nachträge. Baden-Baden, Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag (DWV), 2021 (= Schriftenreihe der Max-Liebermann-Gesellschaft Berlin e.V., ed. v. Martin Faass, volume 9/II), p. 12 and p. 175
Painting and Reality
"If one looks at Liebermann's oeuvre as a whole, one perceives that each group of works points to particular traits of his talent," Karl Scheffler wrote in 1923 in the second edition of his book "Deutsche Maler und Zeichner des 19. Jahrhunderts". In this "century of realities" he had recognised earlier than others "that nature in the German art of his time was really only depicted in Sunday dress". Already as a student in Berlin and Weimar, his talent was trained on the "ingenious examples of the old Dutch and the modern French". Max Liebermann became a "painter of reality" - and thus, together with Wilhelm Leibl, Wilhelm Trübner and Carl Schuch, the "leader of newer German painting".
Scheffler had already come to the same conclusion in 1911, when the book was first published. In the first edition, however, the sharp-tongued Berlin art writer still felt called upon to include a critical statement, the necessity of which may come as a surprise from today's perspective. According to this, Liebermann in 1911 was "still not regarded by the nation as a popular master". The national-conservative art and cultural policy of Wilhelminianism exerted a decisive influence on public art life in the country. Modern views of painting - especially when they came from France - were viewed with scepticism or even rejection. The resulting "party dispute", according to Scheffler, "made many German art lovers shy", even "repelled" them. This also explains the ambivalent relationship of many contemporaries to Liebermann's painting: "Who could still approach a work of art without bias if it had previously been announced to him as the work of a sensationalist school or a reprehensible modern trend! Impartiality is the first prerequisite in dealing with works of art. Art speaks purely and clearly only to those who stand quietly in a waiting attitude and listen to what the work has to say to them".
Liebermann was aware from his earliest appearances as an artist of how much of a challenge it has always been to look at art in an unprejudiced way. In 1872, the final year of his studies at the Weimar Academy, he made his first public appearance with a painting that was to make him famous as a painter. Both the low subject matter and its transposition into a large format were a risk at the time: "... since the subject matter is zero in thought and everything is subordinate to painting, I can only rely on my good conscience," as he wrote from his studio to his brother Felix. As is well known, Liebermann's "Gänserupferinnen" ("Goose Pluckers", Berlin, Alte Nationalgalerie) caused a storm of indignation due to the realistic depiction of working women in a dark barn and established - at least in Germany - the artist's early reputation as the "apostle of ugliness".
Our masterpiece was also created during this period. Lieberman had travelled to Paris for the first time in the summer of 1872, where he was "powerfully attracted" by the works of Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot and above all Jean-François Millet. In addition, the strong impressions of his first trip to Holland in 1871, the works of the old masters Frans Hals and Rembrandt, as well as the simple country life he experienced there, continued to have an effect on the city dweller. Back in his Weimar studio, Liebermann painted the loving father from a simple rural background with his baby in his arms in the winter of 1872, or at the latest in the spring of 1873. Here, too, everything is concentrated on the art of painting itself, of which the young Liebermann impressively presents himself as a master in composition and colour canon, materiality and light mood. In May 1873, the picture was shown at the Berlin Art Exhibition. Once again, the critics did not spare harsh words: despite its inherent sentimentality, this painting made an "alienating impression". One was immediately reminded of the "Goose Pluckers": "This apostle of ugliness has now attempted to depict the 'joys of fatherhood'. But a hideous guy with a tattered suit under shabby clothes does not become a worthy image of fatherly joy, if the artist shows us that he does not stipple the little children in the café'" (Kunstchronik, after Eberle 1873/1).
That same year, in December 1873, Liebermann moved to Paris. He lived and painted for four years in what was then the world capital of art. The French soon celebrated him as one of their own - a painter of "réalisme" and "vérité" who was close to his models Courbet and Millet (Edmond Duranty, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1882). Here, too, Liebermann had chosen "Goose Pluckers" for his first appearance at the Paris Salon in 1874 - and, in contrast to the "scandales" in Germany, had received extremely positive criticism. Finally, in 1901, our painting "Le Veuf", was one of the master's early works, which was still remembered very vividly in the course of an extensive tribute to the artist (Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Vol. II, 1901, No. 26, pp. 285-298, here p. 290).
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