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Friedländer, Max J.

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Friedländer, Max J.

    Other Names:

    • Max Friedlaender

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 05 June 1867

    Date Died: 11 October 1958

    Place Born: Berlin, Germany

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Netherlandish and Northern Renaissance


    Netherlandish art scholar and director Kaiser Friedrich Museum. Friedländer was the son of Leopold Friedländer (1832-ca.1880), a Berlin banker, and Helene Noether (Friedländer) (1843-after 1901). He began studying art history in 1891 in Munich, continuing in Florence (under August Schmarsow, and ultimately Leipzig, writing a dissertation on Albrecht Altdorfer under Anton Springer. Friedländer volunteered at the graphics collection (Kupferstichkabinett) of the Berlin State Museums under Friedrich Lippmann in 1891 and the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne between 1895-96 under Ludwig Scheibler. Through Lippmann’s recommendation, he joined the Gemäldegalerie (Paintings Department) of the Berlin State Museums in 1896 under Wilhelm Bode. He was appointed Deputy Director (immediately under Bode) in 1904, adding the Kupferstichkabinett responsibilities of the Museum in 1908. He and Bode were responsible for the great acquisitions years of the Berlin museums, with Friedländer personally donating a number of works to the Gemäldegalerie and Kupferstichkabinett. In 1924, Friedländer began publishing his magnum opus, a history of early Netherlandish painting artist by artist, which, for its detail and documentation, has never been surpassed. He succeeded Bode as Director in 1924. He and Jakob Rosenberg wrote a monograph on Lucas Cranach in 1932. His retirement age coincided with the ascension of the Nazi rise in 1933 and the proscriptions against Jews in federal employment. He left museum, working as a private expertiser for German and foreign art dealers, enjoying the protection of Nazi Reichmarshall Hermann Goering (1893-1946) whose art collection he helped advise. Friedländer emigrated to his spiritual home of Amsterdam in 1939. After the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, an erroneous arrest was reversed through intervention of the Nazi art dealer Karl Haberstock (1878-1956) who was also working for Goering. Friedländer’s book, On Art and Connoisseurship, appeared first in English in 1942 and in German only after the war as, Von Kunst und Kennerschaft in 1946. Shortly before his death, his 1916 Von Eyck bis Bruegel was revised and edited by Fritz Grossmann and published in 1956 in English as From Van Eyck to Bruegel, Early Netherlandish Painting. Though methodologically a connoisseur-style art historian, Friedländer was a severe critic of the method of Giovanni Morelli, as was Bode. This may have been as much an anti-Austrian, anti-academician stance, since Morelli was most highly revered by the University of Vienna art historian Franz Wickhoff. Friedländer wrote that “Academicians enter the museum with ideas, art connoisseurs leave it with ideas.” (Ladis). Vienna school art historians generally were distained by the Berlin museum directors. Friedländer retorted to Erwin Panofsky, after seeing the posthumously titled book Art History as the History of the Mind (Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte), by the Vienna school (and van Eyck) scholar, Max Dvořák, that “we [in the museum world] are engaged in the physical art history” (Körpergeschichte). Friedländer’s brand of connoisseurship relied on intuition and vast experience rather than a Morellian cataloging of stylistic idiosyncrasies of an individual artist. His realm was the rarified world of the dealer and connoisseur: he never gave a public lecture (Panofsky). His interests within art, however, were wide-ranging. A monograph on the contemporary artist Max Liebermann written by Friedländer included works from Friedländer’s own collection. Other modernist art books by Friedländer included ones on Max Slevogt and the French Impressionists, of whose styles he, unlike Bode, approved. Next to Bode, Friedländer was the most consulted “art expert” in Berlin (Wendland). Many of the most important art historians of the next generation passed through his Print Room as volunteers. These included Jenö Lányi. During the last part of his life he was often compared to the other nonagenarian connoisseur art historian, Bernard Berenson, though the two had little in common. He is not related to the German-American art historian Walter F. Friedländer.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Albrecht Altdorfer der Maler von Regensburg. Leipzig, 1891; Von Eyck bis Bruegel: Studien zur Geschichte der niederländischen Malerei. Berlin: J. Bard, 1916, English, From Van Eyck to Bruegel, Early Netherlandish Painting. New York: Phaidon Publishers, 1956; Der Kunstkenner. Berlin: B. Cassirer, 1919; Die altniederländische Malerei. 14 vols. Berlin: Paul Cassirer, 1924-33 and Leiden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1935-37, English, and Veronee-Verhaegen, Nicole. Early Netherlandish Painting, 16 vols. Leyden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1967-1976; Echt und unecht: aus den Erfahrungen des Kunstkenners. Berlin: B. Cassirer, 1929, [later appearing with Der Kunstkenner as] On Art and Connoisseurship. London: 1942, reappearing in German as, Von Kunst und Kennerschaft. Zürich: B. Cassirer und E. Oprecht, 1946; and Rosenberg, Jakob. Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach. Berlin: Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft, 1932; Essays über die Landschaftsmalerei und andere Bildgattungen. The Hague: A. A. M. Stols, 1947, English, Landscape, Portrait, Still-life: their Origin and Development. Oxford: B. Cassirer, 1949; Heilbrunn, Rudolf M. ed., Erinnerungen und Aufzeichnungen. Mainz and Berlin: Kupferberg, 1967, English, Reminiscences and Reflections. London: Evelyn, Adams and MacKay, 1969.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, 47 mentioned; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 251-253, 255, 497; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 102-104; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 162-73; Ladis, Andrew. “The Unmaking of a Connoisseur.” in, Offner, Richard. A Discerning Eye: Essays on Early Italian Painting. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998, p. 7; Ridderbos, Bernhard. “From Waagen to Friedländer.” in, Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception, Research. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005, pp. 218, 240-51; Blumenreich, L. “Max J. Friedländer: Verzeichnis der Schriften” Berlin, 1927; Aan Max J. Friedländer 1867-1942 aangeboden door enkele vrienden en bewonderaars van zijn werk The Hague, 1942; Max J. Friedländer ter ere van zijn negentigste verjaardag. Amsterdam, 1957; Panofsky, Erwin. “Preface.” Friedländer, Max J. Early Netherlandish Painting. volume 1. Leyden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1967, pp. 9-13; Sutton, Denys. “The Connoisseur as Impressionist.” Apollo 86 (1967): 70-72; Rosenberg, Jakob. “Friedlaender and the Berlin Museums.” Burlington Magazine 101 (March 1959): 83-85.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Friedländer, Max J.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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