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Mayer, August Liebmann

    Full Name: Mayer, August Liebmann

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1885

    Date Died: c. 1944

    Place Born: Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany

    Place Died: Auschwitz, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): painting (visual works) and Spanish (culture or style)


    Historian of Spanish art. Mayer’s parents were Jonas Mayer and Bertha Liebmann (Mayer). His father was a merchant in Darmstadt. Mayer attended the Neues Gymnasium in Darmstadt, graduating in 1904. He studied art history, archaeolog and Germanistik at the universities at Munich and Berlin. In 1907 he received his Ph.D. from Berlin, writing a dissertation on Jusepe Ribera under Heinrich Wölfflin. He published his thesis as a book the following year. After a year’s study travel, mostly in Spain, he took an unpaid position at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich which molted into a position as curator in 1914. During this time he research his habilitation, which allowed him to work as a Privatdozent. In 1920 he was appointed chief conservator and associate professor at the University in Munich. He habilitated the same year. A second edtion of his Ribera book appeared in 1923 as did his work on Goya. Liebmann’s works, including his travelogues on Spain, were published in English giving him a a high Anglo-American profile. With the Nazi’s accession to power in 1933, Mayer position at the Pinakothek was in jeopardy because he was a Jew. When the art historian Wilhelm Pinder in a Munich lecture, denounced over a 100 works in the Pinakothek collections as fakes, a swipe at Mayer’s curatation. Mayer was denounced as well by his students, including the later eminent art historians (and National Socialist sympathizers) Luitpold Dussler and Bernhard Degenhart. Mayer emigrated to France, working as the editor of the art journal Pantheon the same year and doing other writing. When France was overrun by the Nazis in 1940, Mayer fled to Cannes, France. However, he was arrested by the Gestapo, apparently during a sojour to Paris, and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943. He perished there in 1944.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Jusepe da Ribera, Berlin, 1907, published, Leipzig, 1908; El Greco: eine Einführung in das Leben und Wirken des Domenico Theotocopuli, genannt El Greco. Munich: Delphin, 1911; Old Spain. New York: Brentano’s, 1921; Geschichte der spanischen Malerei. Leipzig: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1922;  Francisco de Goya. Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1923, English, translated by Robert West (pseudonym).  London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1924;  D.T. El Greco. Berlin: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1931; Velazquez: a Catalogue Raisonné of the Pictures and Drawings. London: Faber and Faber, Limited 1936.


    Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 445; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 258-9; 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. 429-38; Fuhrmeister, Christian and Kienlechner, Susanne. “Gegenwart und Ahnung: Inwiefern war der Münchner Kunsthistoriker August Liebmann Mayer (1885-1944) ein Vorbild für die Figur des Martin Krüger in Lion Feuchtwangers Roman ‘Erfolg’ (1930)?.” in, Literatur in Bayern 24 no. 93 (September 2008): 32-44; Fuhrmeister, Christian and Kienlechner, Susanne. “Tatort Nizza: Kunstgeschichte zwischen Kunsthandel, Kunstraub und Verfolgung. Zur Vita von August Liebmann Mayer, mit einem Exkurs zu Bernhard Degenhart und Bemerkungen zu Erhard Göpel und Bruno Lohse.” in, Heftrig, Ruth, Peters, Olaf, and Schellewald, Barbara, eds. Kunstgeschichte im “Dritten Reich”:. Theorien, Methoden, Praktiken. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2008 pp. 405-429; Posada Kubissa, Teresa. August L. Mayer y la pintura española: Ribera, Goya, El Greco, Velázquez.
    Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2010.


    "Mayer, August Liebmann." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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