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   A Documentary Film

 
     
 

Max Lazarus, a German Expressive-Realistic painter of the Lost Generation (Max Lazarus, ein deutsch-jüdischer Maler der verschollenen Generation) ©

 
     
     
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The story is the rediscovery of a “lost” German-American Expressive-Realistic painter, humbled by forced emigration from his homeland due to Nazism and Anti-Semitism, and by illness.

 

 

   Funding:
We are looking for funding (grants and sponsors) for preproduction, production, and post-production cost to make a documentary to accompany a 2010 retrospective show of Max's work at the Stadtmuseum Simeonstift Trier in Germany www.museum-trier.de
 
     

                                                           

Max Lazarus: Summary of Life History

By Dr. Baerbel Schulte, vice director, Stadtmuseum Simeonstift Trier, Germany

Max Leon Lazarus was born July 12, 1892, in Trier, Germany, as a son of a Jewish family. His father ran a coal merchant's business and apprenticed his son to a housepainter’s business. After this apprenticeship, Max attended the painting class of Prof. August Trümper in the local art school for arts and crafts. From 1910 to 1911 he studied with an artist in Duesseldorf and visited the School of Arts and Crafts which was directed at the time by Peter Behrens. Between 1911 and 1913 he stayed  in Munich and Innsbruck.  Later he went to Weimar, where he attended the School for Arts and Crafts (later known as Bauhaus) directed by Henry van de Velde.
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In World War I, he became a soldier and was deployed from 1914 to 1918 as a war draftsman at the western front, where he drew maps for the German army. He was injured during a mustard-gas attack. After his return to Trier, he opened a business as a housepainter but also continued his artistic painting. In 1920, he founded the Trier Artists’ Guild, an association of artists, which had several exhibitions in Trier and the region. Max Lazarus also had a very successful one-man show in Luxembourg in 1930. During this time, he created impressive paintings and lithographs with motifs of his hometown and the region around Trier. Most of them were lost during World War II and the time of National Socialism.

Max Lazarus (1892 Trier-1961 Denver)

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View through the windows of the Porta Nigra, 1924, oil on canvas,
City Museum of Trier

View of Trier, about 1925, oil on canvas,
City Museum of Trier

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Mosel-landscape, 1923, oil on canvas,
City Museum of Trier

 
   

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Before leaving Trier, he was one of the first Expressive-Realistic artists in the area and was commissioned to paint a mural on the ceiling of the Trier synagogue. He did this job very well, so he received commissions to paint the synagogues of Merzig, Neumagen, Langen/Hessen and Luebbecke/Westfalen. All these synagogues were destroyed during the “Night of the Broken Glass” in November 1938 or during WW II. Under the Nazis, Max Lazarus was forced to give up painting. He had to sell his house and worked in secret, painting portraits to provide subsistence for his family.

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His friends urged him to emigrate, but he waited until September of 1938. Like most of the other Jews in Germany, he couldn’t believe that something so cruel as the terror that followed could ever happen in a civilized country. Disgraced by the Nazis in November 1938, the Trier synagogue was destroyed by 1944 bombings and his mural was lost. Other of  Max's works in Trier were also  lost, either destroyed by the Nazis or during World War II. Three of his sisters and his uncle were killed by the Nazis in Lodz, Sobibor and Auschwitz.

 

Portrait of an unknown man, about 1930, oil on canvas,
City Museum of Trier

 

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The March of Time, about 1945, drawing,
private collection

Tumbling Civilization, about 1945, lithograph,
private collection

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When he fled to the USA, Max went first to St. Louis, where some members of his family had resided since 1909. Max made his living in St. Louis painting custom furniture in the Dutch Provincial style for a famous cartoonist who worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Daniel Fitzpatrick (1891-1969, twice rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize). An architect in St. Louis, Frederick Dunn (1905-1984), hired Max to design custom wallpapers and wall paintings for his commercial projects. From 1939 through 1942, Max took part in several exhibitions at the St. Louis Art Museum and another show in 1940 in the Young Men's Hebrew Association of St. Louis. He was a member of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild.

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Old Courthouse St. Louis, about 1940, oil on canvas,
private collection

Portrait of a young St. Louis Woman, 1939/40, oil on canvas,
private collection

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Although he was able to start a new career in the U.S., fate again became unfriendly to him. His health was fragile as a result of his mustard-gas injury in World War I, and he contracted tuberculosis. Thus, in 1942, he had to leave St. Louis and move to Denver, which was famous for its clean air and was a center for the treatment of lung diseases. He was hospitalized in the sanatorium of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society in Denver (now the home of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design).

After his rehabilitation, Max was employed as an art teacher at the sanatorium and took part in several exhibitions around the U.S., mostly with woodcuts or prints – for example, the Annual American Wood Engraving and Block Print Exhibition of the Philadelphia Art Club in 1946; the Fourth Southwestern Print and Drawing Exhibition of the Texas Fine Art Association in 1951; the Wichita, Kan., Art Association’s twentieth annual Graphic Arts Exhibition; and the Fine Arts Festival of Kansas State College, Manhattan, Kan. in 1951. After a lingering illness, he died on December 9, 1961 in Denver.

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Without Title, about 1950, oil on canvas,
private collection

     

                          Without Title, about 1950, oil on canvas,
                                            private collection

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Alex Murphree: Max Lazarus earns High Honor for Lithographs and Woodcuts

Denver Post, 25.3.1951:

“... We first met Lazarus perhaps four years ago and knew his work then chiefly by his paintings, brilliant and even brutal in color, expressive in design, hinting at social comment but not bludgeoning the viewer with idea. We thought and still think that they are among the finest paintings being done in Denver and it has been a source of recurrent surprise that they have not appeared in many of the local and regional shows.

Lazarus hasn’t told us whether he has quit submitting his paintings since two or three years ago when his work was rejected for one show by a jury which seemed otherwise bent on accepting almost everything – or, at least, a Noah’s Ark of two examples of each artist’s work – for one of the bigger local shows. His work wasn’t modern enough for the Fifteen Colorado Artists show at that time either. […] The lithograph reproduced on this page, “The March of Time”, is typical with its sense of urgency and roiling life. The draftsmanship gives it a clarity and force, despite an almost classical neatness. It is strong in its emotional projection, but it is simple as well as direct.

“The March of Time”, a handsome lithograph, is currently a part of the Fourth Southwestern Print and Drawing Exhibition of the Texas Fine Art Association in Austin, where it will remain through April 8.

Two other bits of Lazarus’ work, “Tumbling Civilization”, a lithograph, and “Old Cemetery”, a woodcut, were shown during January as a part of the Wichita, Kan., Art Association’s twentieth annual graphic arts exhibition. And Lazarus has been invited to submit prints to the Fine Arts Festival of Kansas State College, Manhattan, Kan., during April. A one-man show of Lazarus’ paintings and prints – our respectful suggestion – seems in order for Denver.”

 

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