Max Slevogt
Biography of German Impressionist Painter.

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Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (1906)
Landesmuseum, Mainz.

Max Slevogt (1868-1932)


Arts Training
Development as an Artist
Impressionist Paintings of Theatre and Opera
Later Years

For an idea of the pigments
used by Max Slevogt, see:
Colour Palette Nineteenth Century.

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Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest view painters, see:
Best Landcape Artists.
For the greatest portraitists
see: Best Portrait Artists.

For the best works, see:
Greatest Modern Paintings.

For more artists like
Max Slevogt, see:
Modern Artists.


An important figure in 19th-Century German Art, Max Slevogt ranks alongside Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) and Max Liebermann (1847-1935) - as well as the pioneering Berlin artist Adolph Von Menzel (1815-1905) - as one of the leading exponents of Impressionism in Germany. However, while skilled in plein air painting, he never adopted the ultra-loose brushwork and fragmented colours of the French Impressionist painters, retaining instead something of the realism of Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900), who had influenced him during his early years. Slevogt's subjects included landscape painting as well as portrait art (including self-portraits) and contemporary genre painting, but - like the Impressionist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) - he developed a passion for theatrical subjects. In particular, being a gifted pianist and singer, he combined his interest in music and drawing in a famous series of portraits of Francesco d'Andrade, the celebrated Portuguese opera singer. Slevogt is also credited with helping to establish the expressionist movement in Germany, a view which may perhaps overstate his contribution. He was however a master of book illustration, and also produced several fine murals, including his famous fresco painting (1932) for the Friedenskirche at Ludwigshaven.


Arts Training

Born in Landshut, Germany, Slevogt studied at the Munich Art Academy during the period 1884-90. To begin with, his painting was dark in tone and strongly influenced by the academic style of Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901), Wilhelm Trubner, and Leibl, but several trips abroad helped to widen his tastes. In 1898 he visited a major Rembrandt exhibition in Holland; in 1889-90, as well as staying in Italy for a spell, he spent a year studying at the Academie Julian in Paris where he came in contact with Impressionist paintings by several of the established masters. As a result of these experiences his palette began to lighten and in addition he developed a particular interest in Dutch art.

Development as an Artist

In 1896, Slevogt produced a range of caricature art for the Munich periodicals Simplicissimus and Jugend (which focused on Jugendstil designs), and the following year enjoyed his first solo exhibition in Vienna. (See also Vienna Secession.) In 1899, his oil painting "Danae" - showcased at the Munich Secession exhibition - was deemed to be offensive: a provincial judgment which perhaps affected his decision to leave the city - although it didn't stop the German art dealer Paul Cassirer (1871-1926) from exhibiting and buying his work. In any event, Slevogt travelled again to Paris in 1900, where some of his work appeared in the German pavilion of the world exhibition along with portraits by the eminent society portraitist Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904). The following year he joined the Berlin Secession, and, after a brief stay in Frankfurt, settled in the German capital. In 1901, he was appointed professor at the Munich Academy of Art and, in 1914, was elected to the Academy of Arts in Berlin. He was also active at the Dresden Academy. (For other developments in Berlin and Munich, see: Post-Impressionism in Germany c.1880-1910.)



Impressionist Paintings of Theatre and Opera

Although his painting still included elements of German Symbolism, as well as the comparatively new style of Art Nouveau, his increasing familiarity with Impressionist painting techniques led him to adopt brighter, more luminous colours as well as a spontaneous, flowing brush-stroke, which allowed him to transform whatever he depicted into a purely optical experience. According to his personal motto "the eye sees what it looks for", so frequently he chose optically powerful themes: exotic animals and plants, but above all the glittering world of the theatre and opera, with its vivid colours, heady atmosphere, and magical illusions, all of which corresponded to his own artistic and musical inclinations. It was in Berlin, for instance, that he painted several well-known Impressionist portraits of the Portuguese baritone Francesco d'Andrade, including White d'Andrade (1902) and Red d'Andrade (1912).

For other exponents of Impressionism in Germany and Austria, see: Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885); Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (1793-1865).

In early 1914, Slevogt travelled to Egypt and Italy, during which time he produced a number of watercolour paintings and spent time sketching en plein air. Following the outbreak of the Great War, he was appointed official war painter on the western front, where his experiences led to him adopt a more expressionist style of art. See, for instance, Tiger in the Jungle (1917, Kunsthalle, Hamburg), which is one of his most famous expressionist paintings. (See also: History of Expressionist Painting.)

For more information about Post-Impressionism in Europe during the career of Slevogt, please see: Italian Divisionism (c.1890-1907), as well as Post-Impressionism in Holland (1880-1920).

Later Years

After the end of the war, Slevogt returned to teaching, and where possible continued to combine art and music. In 1924, for instance, he designed stage sets for Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, performed at the Dresdner state opera house. In 1929, the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin held a large 60th birthday exhibition of his paintings, including portraits, landscapes and theatrical works. In 1931-2 he devoted most of his time to completing the religious mural painting, entitled Golgatha, for the peace church in Ludwigshafen. Ironically it was obliterated by bombing raids during World War II. Slevogt died at Leinsweiler, Bavaria, in 1932 and was interred at the family seat at Neukastel.


Slevogt embodied the peculiar combination of artistic crosscurrents that shaped modern art in Germany during the late 19th century and early 20th century. In his oils, he was initially seeped in traditional German realism before coming under the influence of Impressionistic French painting, and finally seeking the greater freedom offered by expressionism. Thus although he ranks among Germany's great early 20th century painters, he is not the easiest of artists to classify.

Impressionist paintings by Max Slevogt can be seen in several of the best art museums in Europe.

• For biographies of other German Impressionists, see: Famous Painters.
• For more details of Impressionism in Germany, see: Homepage.

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