Gabriel von Max: Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul

July 9 – October 30, 2011

One of the most discussed, and perhaps controversial, artists of the late nineteenth century, Gabriel von Max (1840–1915) “set hearts beating violently” with his paintings of a somnambulant, crucified woman with a full-blooded swain at her feet and an anatomist pulling back diaphanous cloth from the alabaster corpse of a beautiful young woman. Max’s portrayal of the biblical tale of Jairus’ daughter being raised from the dead, his polemical depiction of vivisection, and his paintings of his beloved, yet melancholic, monkeys engaged in various humanlike endeavors stirred the emotions and public debates of his day. Yet, despite international acclaim, Max has not been the subject of a solo museum exhibition in America until now, with the Frye Art Museum’s Gabriel von Max, on view July 9 through October 30, 2011.

The exhibition Gabriel von Max, curated by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, reintroduces the artist’s accomplishments to American audiences and examines the reception of his work in the New World that fascinated Max. The artist’s first solo exhibition in America includes more than 120 works, including 36 paintings from public and private collections in Europe and America as well as original drawings, woodcuts on the theme of Faust, illustrated letters, rare photographs, and antiquarian publications illustrated by Max. Some of the nineteenth century’s most discussed paintings will be on view including masterpieces from the Neue Pinakothek in Munich and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. The exhibition will showcase the Frye Art Museum’s own Founding Collection, which has the largest public holdings of paintings by Max in the United States, as well as the extensive Max holdings of the Daulton-Ho Collection in California.

A 128-page, fully illustrated exhibition catalogue published by the Frye Art Museum and distributed by the University of Washington Press is available in the Frye Store. The catalogue includes essays by Birnie Danzker as well as essays by leading German and Czech art historians Dr. Karin Althaus, Susanne Böller, Aleš Filip, Helmut Hess, and Roman Musil. The catalogue also includes a fictitious account by Max of a journey he reputedly made to America.

The exhibition Gabriel von Max: Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul is organized by the Frye Art Museum in collaboration with the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, and is curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. Funding for the exhibition and catalogue is provided by the Frye Foundation with the generous support of Frye Art Museum members and donors.

Sponsorship for the exhibition is provided by BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Nitze-Stagen, and Riddell Williams P.S. Seasonal support is provided by ArtsFund.

Image Credits:
Installation view.
Gabriel von Max. Vor der Arena (Outside the Arena), 1880. Oil on canvas. 19 x 15 3/8 in. The Daulton-Ho Collection. Photo: Don Tuttle.
Gabriel von Max. Der Anatom (The Anatomist), 1869. Oil on canvas. 53 ¾ x 74 5/8 in. Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Neue Pinakothek. Photo: bpk, Berlin / Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Neue Pinakothek / Art Resource, NY.
Gabriel von Max. Das ist das Hexen-Einmal-Eins! (That is the witches’ one-times-one!) from Faust-Illustrationen (Illustrations of Faust), 1880. Wood engraving by Wilhelm Hecht after drawing by Gabriel von Max. 15 ¾ x 20 3/16 in. The Daulton-Ho Collection. Photo: Don Tuttle.
Gabriel von Max. Märtyrerin am Kreuz (The Christian Martyr), 1867. Oil on paper affixed to canvas. 48 x 36 3/4 in. Frye Art Museum, Charles and Emma Frye Collection, 1952.116. Photo: Eduardo Calderón.
Gabriel von Max. Botaniker (The Botanists), after 1900. Oil on canvas. 25 x 31 ¾ in. Frye Art Museum, Charles and Emma Frye Collection, 1952.117. Photo: Eduardo Calderón.

"(The) aim in this, the first solo show ever dedicated to von Max in the U.S., is to restore him to prominence in this country, concentrating on works that, once seen, stay branded on your memory."

Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

"I'll never look at The Christian Martyr the same way again."

Jen Graves, The Stranger