Gabriel Cornelius von Max
* 1840 Prag
† 1915 München
The spiritualist and Darwinist Gabriel von Max was an important personality of the cultural scene in Munich in the second half of the 19th Century. He was born in Prague in 1840 and received first lessons in painting from his father, the sculptor Joseph Max. As of 1855 he studied at the Art Academy in Prague for three years and transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1858, where Karl Mayer, Christian Ruben and Carl Wurzinger were among his teachers. In 1863 Gabriel von Max changed to the Munich Academy of Fine Arts where he completed his studies under the great historical painter Carl Theodor von Piloty in 1867. Franz von Defregger and Hans Makart were among his fellow students in Munich, through whom Gabriel von Max became acquainted with Franz von Lenbach. As of 1878 Gabriel von Max taught historical painting in Munich, however, he held the post only until 1883, when he resigned and retreated to his villa in Ammerland on Lake Starberg. His house was also where the foundation ceremony of the Theosophic Society Germania, German branch of the Theosophic Society founded in New York in 1875, took place. In late 1900 Gabriel von Max became member of the Bavarian nobility.
Artistic accomplishments of Gabriel von Max are characterized by allegorical-mystical and spiritualistic-religious themes, additionally, motifs from his other fields of interest, for example zoology and the anthropology of apes can also be found in his paintings. With his work “Märtyrerin am Kreuz“ from 1867 Gabriel von Max had great impact on the Munich art scene. His historical paintings with Christian and spiritual motifs earned him the by-name “Seelenmaler“ (Painter of Souls). His occupation with latest scientific issues, for instance in medicine, or Darwin‘s evolutionary theory also helped Gabriel von Max to attain a new and expressive pictorial language. At the turn of the century he made a whole series of monkey pictures which would be very successful. He build a large enclosure for a herd of monkeys at his villa in Ammerland, in order to execute scientific research and compiled a collection of 60,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects. Today parts of this collection are in possession of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museum in Mannheim.
Gabriel von Max died in Munich in 1915.