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Osborn, Max

    Full Name: Osborn, Max

    Other Names:

    • Heinrich Garbel

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 10 February 1870

    Date Died: 24 September 1946

    Place Born: Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany and United States

    Institution(s): Kulturbund Deutscher Juden


    Art critic, journalist, and prolific author with expertise in modern art and architecture, German literature and theater, and Berlin’s history and architecture. He used the pseudonym Heinrich Garbel. Max Osborn was born in Cologne, Germany in 1870 to a father who was a banker and Clotilde Cohn (Osborn). Osborn studied in Cologne at Apostelgymnasium. In 1881, he moved with his family to Berlin, where he continued his studies at Wilhelms-Gymnasium. He received his abitur there in 1888. From 1889-1893, Osborn studied German literature and art history in Heidelberg, Munich, and Berlin under Herman Grimm. He completed his Theatrum Diabolorum dissertation in literature in 1893 under the tutelage of Erich Schmidt (1853-1913), a pioneer in the field of the history of German literature. From 1894-1914, his primary occupations were working as a co-editor of the Jahresberichte für neuere deutsche Literaturgeschichte, which reported on new published German literature, and as a contributor to the Magazin für Literatur und dem Deutschen Reichsanzeiger, which served much the same purpose. In 1896, he married Martha Boas. He started working as an editor on the major pieces featured in the Berliner Nationalzeitung in 1900. Osborn’s most notable piece of literature was published in 1910, Geschichte der Kunst. Eine kurzgefaßte Darstellung ihrer Hauptepochen. Transitioning to a role at Ullstein Publishing House, one of Germany’s largest publishing establishments at the time, Osborn wrote editorial pieces as a theater critic for the B.Z. am Mittag. He accepted an offer to work as an art critic for Vossische Zeitung in 1914. He remained in this position until 1933, and his most important work over this period of his life was most probably done as correspondent to the front lines of World War I. He chaired the Association of German Art Critics after his return from chronicling the experience of German soldiers in World War I. After his work with Vossische Zeitung, he co-founded and was a staff member of Kulturbund Deutscher Juden (later named Jüdischer Kulturbund Berlin), an organization to celebrate the unique talents of Jewish artists. Through this organization, he advised younger Jewish artists, gave lectures, and organized art exhibitions. From 1934-1935, he studied in Palestine but remained closely connected to contemporary German artists. After Kristallnacht in 1938, Osborn greatly reduced the number of public events hosted by Kulturbund Deutscher Juden and chose to publish under the pseudonym Heinrich Garbel. As a result of the Nazi power after Kristallnacht and his having to severely limit the operations of Kulturbund Deutscher Juden, he fled to Paris in 1938. He worked for the Basler Nationalzeitung remotely from Paris until he emigrated to New York in 1941. In the United States, he wrote for several publications, including Aufbau, Congress Weekly, and the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia.

    Max Osborn was an expert on the history of Berlin, and as a member of the Art Committee of the City of Berlin, contributed copious amounts of literature on this subject (Obituary NYT). He had a significant impact on the way German literature, theater, and modern art were interpreted in Germany because he was the chief art critic of Ullstein Publications for three decades (Obituary NYT). Overall, his reviews of different art exhibitions and theatrical events exerted great influence on Germany’s artistic life before Hitler rose to power (Obituary NYT).

    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation:] Theatrum Diabolorum Berlin, 1893;
    • Andreas Musculus. Vom Hassenteufel (1555) Halle, 1894;
    • Die deutsche Kunst im 19. Jahrhundert 1901;
    • Der Holzschnitt Bielefeld, 1905;
    • Moderne Plastik Berlin, 1905;
    • Porträtmalerei Berlin, 1905;
    • Joshua Reynolds Bielefeld, 1908;
    • Geschichte der Kunst. Eine kurzgefaßte Darstellung ihrer Hauptepochen Berlin, 1910;
    • Meisterbuch der Kunst. Eine kurzgefaßte Geschichte der Kunst Berlin 1910;
    • Franz Krüger Bielefeld, 1910;
    • Eugen Bracht Bielefeld, 1911;
    • Ludwig Richter Bielefeld, 1911;
    • Der Märchenbrunnen im Friedrichshain zu Berlin Berlin, 1914;
    • Drei Straßen des Krieges 1916;
    • Gegen die Rumänen. Mit der Falkenhayn-Armee bis zur Sereth Berlin, 1917;
    • Emil Orlik Berlin, 1920;
    • Max Pechstein Berlin, 1922;
    • Der Maler Christian Schad Berlin, 1927;
    • Irma Stern Leipzig, 1927;
    • Jean Kraemer Berlin, 1927;
    • Die Kunst des Rokoko Berlin, 1929;
    • Leonid Pasternak Warschau, 1932;
    • Der Bunte Spiegel: Erinnerungen aus dem Kunst-, Kultur- und Geistesleben der Jahre 1890 bis 1933.  New York:  Verlag Friedrich Krause, 1945.


    • Osborn, Max. Der Bunte Spiegel: Erinnerungen aus dem Kunst-, Kultur- und Geistesleben der Jahre 1890 bis 1933. New York: Verlag Friedrich Krause, 1945;
    • “Dr. Max Osborn, 76, Art Critic, is Dead” New York Times, September 25, 1946: 27;
    • Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 465-70.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen and Paul Kamer


    Lee Sorensen and Paul Kamer. "Osborn, Max." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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