Max Weber (1881-1961)
The Michael Scharf Family Collection
Max Weber (1881-1961)

Interior with Music

Max Weber (1881-1961)
Interior with Music
signed and dated 'Max Weber 1915' (lower right)
oil on canvas
58 ½ x 38 ½ in. (148.6 x 97.8 cm.)
Painted in 1915.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
[With]Forum Gallery, New York.
The Ertegun Collection Group, New York, acquired from the above, 1979.
[With]Terry Dintenfass, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1986.
H. McBride, "Current News of Art and The Exhibitions," The Sun, December 19, 1915, p. 7.
"Max Weber's Zeal," anonymous review, 1915, Archives of American Art, Max Weber Papers, Reel NY59-6, Frame 371.
"Exhibition of Ultra-modern Art by Max Weber Reveals Workings of Lively Imagination," 1915, Archives of American Art, Max Weber Papers, Reel NY59-6, Frame 371.
H. McBride, The Flow of Art: Essays and Criticisms, New Haven, Connecticut, 1975, pp. 94-95.
A. Werner, Max Weber, New York, 1975, p. 10, no. 65, illustrated.
J. Zilczer, "'Color Music': Synaesthesia and Nineteenth-Century Sources for Abstract Art," Artibus et Historiae, vol. 8, no. 16, 1987, pp. 109, 111, fig. 11, illustrated.
D. Cassidy, Painting the Musical City: Jazz and Cultural Identity in American Art, Washington, D.C., 1997, pp. 6, 26-27, 29.
J. Zilczer, “American Rhapsody: From Modern to Postmodern in Visual Music,” The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Western Art, Oxford, England, 2016, n.p.
W.C. Agee, et al., The Scharf Collection: A History Revealed, New York, 2018, pp. 59, 69-70, 184, pl. 36, illustrated.
New York, Montross Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Max Weber, December 14-30, 1915, n.p., no. 2.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Max Weber: Retrospective Exhibition, 1907-1930, March 13-April 2, 1930, p. 17, no. 32.
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Max Weber: Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, January 11-February 12, 1944, n.p., no. 7.
New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, Inc., Pioneers of American Abstraction, October 17-November 17, 1973, no. 114, illustrated.
New York, Forum Gallery, Max Weber, October 25-November 14, 1975, n.p., no. 11, cover illustration.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Center, Collecting the Masters, June 3-July 31, 1977, no. 44.
New York, The Jewish Museum; West Palm Beach, Florida, The Norton Gallery and School of Art; San Antonio, Texas, The McNay Institute; Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum, Max Weber: American Modern, October 5, 1982-November 5, 1983, pp. 30-31, 73, 76, no. 40, illustrated.
Andover, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover Alumni Collectors, April 29-July 31, 1995.

Brought to you by

William Haydock
William Haydock

Lot Essay

In the exhibition catalogue for Max Weber's 1930 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, the artist wrote of the present work, Interior with Music, “There are moments when our senses seem to take on the functions of each other. To hear is to see, to see is to touch, and so it seems that the audible tones of music float and interlace or blur in space as do volumes of smoke or even vapors or aromas. Here is an expression of a conception of music as it wafts in space and is encased or seized in rhythmic architectural contour. The visible gamut of color seemed appropriate at the time for the harmony of music then heard in silence and isolation.” (Museum of Modern Art, Max Weber Retrospective Exhibition, New York, 1930, p. 17) Indeed, as Weber himself described, Interior with Music is a powerful visual symphony that translates the musical world into a tapestry of color and form.

Regarded by many, including museum directors Alfred Hamilton Barr Jr. and John Cotton Dana, as a pioneer of Modernism, Max Weber’s early Cubist pictures, including Interior with Music, stand as his most advanced and revered forays into abstraction. This compelling aesthetic originated most notably with Weber’s dynamic New York cityscapes and developed further with his more spiritual musical paintings. In the present work, Weber limits representation to just the cleft sign. He instead focuses on abstractly expressing onto the canvas his sensations, not as directly perceived but as he experienced them subjectively—emotionally, most forcefully—in his memory and imagination. His arrangement of these abstracted forms and planes lends the composition a sense of rhythm, allowing the work to resonate with the very sensation of sound.

Beyond their advanced aesthetic achievement, for Weber, his musical paintings were not an end in themselves, but rather an organizing force that could reveal underlying spiritual harmonies and thereby a path to a deeper, transcendent understanding. Judith Zilczer explains, “Weber’s efforts to make synaesthetic equivalents of music in painting were closely tied to his larger aesthetic theory of the fourth dimension. Briefly stated, Weber believed that the fourth dimension represented a higher spiritual reality. The Symbolist concept of musical analogy enabled Weber to accept abstraction and envision the fourth dimension. In his first essay on the subject, Weber claimed that the fourth dimension ‘is somewhat similar to color and depth in musical sounds. It arouses imagination and stirs emotions.’” ("'Color Music': Synaesthesia and Nineteenth-Century Sources for Abstract Art," Artibus et Historiae, vol. 8, no. 16, 1987, p. 108)

Perhaps no individual was more important to Weber in developing these theories than artist and teacher Arthur Dow, who regularly had his students—Weber included—listen to music as they painted. Zilczer writes, “The highly influential educator Arthur Dow disseminated the concept of musical analogy in his widely read book Composition…Dow believed ‘Music to be, in a sense, the key to the other fine arts, since its essence is pure beauty.’” ("'Color Music': Synaesthesia and Nineteenth-Century Sources for Abstract Art," p. 102) Believing similarly about the power of music, artists around the world concurrently aspired to capture in their work the harmonies that existed in the visual and spiritual worlds as well. Whether the work of Wassily Kandinsky, Francis Picabia, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove or other Modernists, the primary goal was the same--to merge the visual and auditory senses.

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