Max Liebermann 1847-1935

Today, Wednesday 22, on the suggestion of Jen and Dave’s friend’s mother, we went to the villa of Max Liebermann on the shores of Lake Wannsee, on the outskirts of Berlin, in a posh area consisting of lots of large villas. Took us just under an hour on the amazing transport system – 2 trains, then a bus which dropped us at the door.

Max Liebermann was a German-Jewish painter and one of the leading impressionist painters ever in Germany. He was born in July 1847 and died in February 1935. He grew up in an imposing townhouse alongside the Brandenburg Gate. He studied painting initially in Weimar, and then in Paris and the Netherlands. His works included scenes around the villa at Wannsee, and over 200 portraits and self-portraits. His work is said to be very close in spirt to Edouard Manet. From 1899 to 1911 he was a leader in the formation of the Berlin Secessionist movement. We had seen his work at a number of galleries around Berln so were very keen to see more.

The sun was out so a great day to visit what turned out to be a beautiful villa and its garden on the shores of Lake Wannsee. Max Liebermann built this house in 1910 and with his wife Martha and daughter Katie lived in it in the summers until he died at the age of 87 in 1935. After he died his wife was forced to sell the villa in 1940. She died by suicide in 1943 at the age of 85 after being told that she was being sent to a concentration camp. Many of Liebermann’s paintings were stolen by the Nazis – a few have been found since.

After the villa was sold it had many lives including as a hospital and a diving club. It was only in 1995 that the Berlin government approved it becoming a museum. The Max Liebermann Society was formed and work began in 2002 to renovate the villa and return the garden to its original state. It was opened to the public in 2006. It houses a permanent exhibition by Liebermann, focussing on work he did when in residence at Wannsee. There is a special exhibition there now which includes painting he did of people playing sport early in the 20th century. Some wonderful paintings of women playing tennis in ankle length dresses, and amazing paintings of horse riding.

The villa was not at its most beautiful when we visited as the weather is still cold and winter is still very evident. But the pruning has been done and the trees and flowers were sprouting and in a month it will be marvellous. We watched a good 13 minute video which shows the garden at its very best at the time of the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the museum.  As that contained interviews in German, you might be interested to look at this earlier 3 minute summertime video here.

We spent a really enjoyable 3 hours in the garden and looking at the paintings in the villa. We hope our photos will give you come idea of what a restful and beautiful place it is. It is worth mentioning that we hired an audio guide in English and this was very important in coming to appreciate the villa and its art.

Home in time to greet our friend Andy who has joined us from London for the week. Alan has just taken him on a quick bus tour of the city so he is ready to explore. He has not been here before. He was up at 5am this morning to get here so early night all round.


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