Along with Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, Max Oppenheimer was one of the pioneers of Austrian Expressionism. Born in Vienna in 1885, he studied at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts, before moving to Prague for a few years to continue his studies. In 1907, he returned to Vienna, where he joined the city’s avant-garde, becoming one of the leading portraitists of the capital. During this period, he shared a studio with Schiele, by whom he was portrayed. Between 1911 and 1915, he lived in Germany, first in Munich, then in Berlin, where he took part to numerous exhibitions. After having lived in Switzerland, where he briefly joined the Dadaists, he moved back to Austria in the early 1930s. Following the Anschluss, Oppenheimer faced Nazi prosecution because of his Jewish origins and his homosexuality. In 1938 he emigrated to New York, where he died in 1954.
Painted in 1913, when Oppenheimer had already started signing his works with the acronym “MOPP”, Zahnarzt, is an excellent example of the artist’s years in Berlin. Still revealing the influence of Kokoschka’s style, this work displays the interest Oppenheimer was developing towards cubism, to which he was introduced in the German capital. Elements of form analysis are especially evident in the figures’ clothes and in the background. Oppenheimer’s interest in medicine and surgery anticipates one of the main themes of Neue Sachlichkeit. The portraits of surgeons painted by Otto Dix, as well as Christian Schaad’s medical scenes, count among the most celebrated works of this movement.
After having been shown at the first exhibition dedicated to Oppenheimer in Munich in 1913, this work was acquired by Paul Buéso, a foremost Belgian art collector and friends with artists such as James Ensor.