(1895–1971), painter, set designer, and teacher. Max Hermann Maxy was born in Brăila, Romania, but grew up in Bucharest, where he studied at the School of Fine Arts from 1913 to 1916. Among his teachers were Frederic Storck and Camil Ressu.
Maxy was mobilized during World War I, an experience that had a significant impact on his painting. In 1918, with the artists Iosif Ross and Iosif Steurer, he organized an exhibit in Iaşi that depicted scenes from the front. In 1920, he held his first individual show in Bucharest, again presenting his war scenes. One year later, he participated in a show sponsored by the Arta Română (Romanian Art) society.
In 1922 and 1923, Maxy studied in Berlin (as did his fellow Romanian artist, Arthur Segal) and became a member of the Novembergruppe (November Group), a German cultural organization of Socialist orientation, promoting expressionist aspirations, founded in 1918 in Berlin. In Berlin, he displayed his work at Der Sturm Galleries, with Paul Klee and Louis Marcoussis.
In 1924, Maxy participated in the International Exhibition of the avant-garde Contimporanul group in Bucharest, along with the group’s cofounder, Marcel Iancu (Janco), Constantin Brâncuşi, Paul Klee, Hans (Jean) Arp, Arthur Segal, Victor Brauner, Corneliu Mihăilescu, and Milița Pătraşcu. That same year, following the spirit of Bauhaus and supporting the idea of unity in artistic style, he established, in Bucharest, the Academy of Modern and Decorative Art. In 1928, the Academy became the Studio of Decorative Art, an institution promoting Art Deco. Maxy also founded the avant-garde review Integral, among whose contributors were Filip Brunea-Fox, Ion Călugăru, Ilarie Voronca, Beniamin Fundoianu (Fondane), and Mattis Teutsch.
In 1926 Maxy spent time in Paris, where under the influence of Samuel Becket he created scenery and costumes for Luigi Pirandello’s L’Uomo, la bestia, a la virtú (Man, Beast, and Virtue) and André Gide’s Saul. Upon returning to Romania, Maxy participated in a show of the Arta Nouă (New Art) group in 1929 and was awarded a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Barcelona for his work in decorative arts. Between 1930 and 1938, Maxy took part in exhibits of Contimporanul in Bucharest, the Rome exhibition of the Group for Modern Art, and those of the Criterion group, also in Bucharest.
In 1939, he became a set designer for the Jewish theater in Bucharest. With the passing of anti-Jewish legislation, he took on the theater’s directorship in 1941. He also taught at the Jewish School of Arts, a private institution for students who had been excluded from the Romanian public education system. After World War II, he organized a show titled “Work and Art,” displaying the creations of some of his students. In 1949, Maxy was appointed director of the Art Museum of Romania and university professor at the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Arts in Bucharest. In 1954 Maxy was awarded the title artist emerit (emeritus artist), with many other awards being granted by the Communist authorities in the years to come. His works are displayed in Romanian art exhibits in Bucharest, Prague, Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Sofia, and Belgrade, as well as Athens, Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul.
Maxy’s early works were dominated by constructivism, but his contribution to the Arta Nouă exhibition in 1929 already signaled his turn toward moderate modernism, characterized by realism and a narrative mode. Maxy was also one of the best-known graphic artists and illustrator of interwar Romania; in particular, critics have praised his illustrations for texts by Saşa Pană and Ilarie Voronca. Also of note is the portrait collection of the members of his generation, published in Integral, Contimporanul, Unu, 75 HP, and the Jewish cultural review Puntea de Fildeş.
Steven A. Mansbach, Modern Art in Eastern Europe (New York, 1999); Amelia Pavel, Pictori evrei din România (Bucharest, 1996); Uniunea Arhitecților din România, Bucureşti anii 1920–1940: Între avangardă şi modernism (Bucharest, 1994).
Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea