Find out more about the photographers behind the Liebermann portraits from our exhibition.
Please find the English wall texts below.
Texts, editing: Viktoria Krieger
Production: Studio Brod, Berlin
English Wall texts
Meeting Liebermann. Photo portraits from the Ullstein Collection
In the early decades of the Twentieth Century, the Berlin-based Ullstein company was the largest publishing house in Europe. In addition to books, Ullstein published dozens of popular newspapers and magazines that sold in immense quantities throughout Germany: the “Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung” and “Berliner Morgenpost” for example, “B.Z. am Mittag”, “Zeitbilder,” “Die Dame”, “UHU“ and “Der Querschnitt”.
These many titles needed images. From the 1890s onwards, Ullstein was constantly on the lookout for photographs – often calling for submissions via advertisements and industry address books. From around 1900 the publishing house had established its own picture archive. In 1929, around 10.000 photographs entered the archive every month, many sent in proactively by photographers hoping they might be useful for an upcoming article. A large portion of this picture archive survived both the “Aryanisation” of the Ullstein company under the National Socialist regime, and the bombings of the Second World War. In 1950 there remained around 2.5 million photographs in the collection of the Ullstein archive.
Max Liebermann (1847–1935) was among the best-known personalities of his time. He was also well aware of the importance of images, purposefully using photography as a means of enhancing his reputation. It is unsurprising therefore that dozens of Liebermann portrait photographs were taken into the Ullstein Collection. Sixteen of these Liebermann Photographs form the core of our exhibition. We set out to tell the story of these meetings between Liebermann and the photographers of Berlin: what was the significance of these encounters, both for the artist and those who took the pictures? How were these images used? And how do these prints fit into the eventful history of the Ullstein publishing house?
We would like to express our sincere thanks to our lender and project partner ullstein bild collection, in particular to Dr. Katrin Bomhoff from the Ullstein photographic collection.
Max Liebermann, half portrait, seated in a chair with a cigarette, ca. 1900
One of the earliest Liebermann portraits in the Ullstein photo archive was taken by Nicola Perscheid (1864–1930). Perscheid was born in the region of Koblenz-Moselweiß and was among the first professional photographers in Germany. Between 1880 and 1890 he led photographic studios in Görlitz and Leipzig. In 1892 he was named “Royal Saxon Court Photographer” and made himself a name as a portrait photographer.
This image was taken around the turn of the century. It was first published in 1900 in the journal “Die Kunst für Alle”, produced by the Munich-based Bruckmann publishing house. The picture was most likely taken in Liebermann’s studio. The painter was highly pleased with the result. In 1901, he described the picture as “the best photograph of me which exists”. In the following years Liebermann often recreated this pose, for example in his painted self-portraits. In 1929, the photograph was published by Ullstein in their magazine “UHU”, in an article titled “What should I do with my hands?”. Perscheid’s Liebermann portrait was published alongside three further Liebermann photographs with the subtitle “A whole life long the same hand gesture”.
In the Ullstein archive this photograph is dated “around 1905”. This was the year Perscheid moved to Berlin – perhaps he immediately delivered a selection of his best photographs to Ullstein. It is however no longer possible to reconstruct how and when this work was acquired by Ullstein. While the photographs in the archives survived the war, the correspondence and other business records were almost entirely destroyed.
Studio Rudolf Dührkoop and Minya Diéz-Dührkoop
Portrait of Max Liebermann, 1909
Rudolf Dührkoop (1848–1918) opened his first photographic studio in 1883 in Hamburg. A second was opened in 1890. He soon became known for his portraits. In 1887 his then 14-year old daughter Minya (1873–1929) joined the business as his studio assistant. From then on father and daughter ran the business together.
In 1906, the family founded a studio in Berlin, on the main street Unter den Linden. They soon made a name for themselves thanks to the modernity of their pictures. The sitters were depicted in their own homes, without the scenery or props commonly used at the time. In one article, published in the journal “Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration”, the Dührkoop studio was described as “radical” with a “determined striving towards the future”.
This photograph was taken in the spring of 1909, likely in Liebermann’s studio on Pariser Platz. On 9 April 1909 Liebermann wrote to Minya Diéz-Dührkoop, “Dear Madame, many thanks for sending over your beautiful photographs”. Cleary the Dührkoops too were pleased with the photograph. They used it in a 1910 advertisement for their business, which appeared in a catalogue of the Berlin Secession. In 1912, the picture was published in the Ullstein newspaper the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung”. In 1925, it appeared again in the magazine “UHU”, in an article exploring the pseudo-science of phrenology.
Portrait of Max Liebermann, seen from behind, 1930
In May 1930, an article appeared in the Ullstein magazine “UHU” with the title “Who are you? A task for sharp observers”. A selection of famous figures were presented, photographed from behind – the game was to guess who was depicted. Alongside reverse portraits form Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein there also appeared this picture of Max Liebermann. The photograph was likely taken in Liebermann’s studio at Pariser Platz in the spring of 1930.
The photographer Yva (1900–1942) was born Else Ernestine Neuländer to a Jewish family in Berlin. Following her training as photographer she opened her own studio near the Berlin Tiergarten. She quickly established herself as a fashion and portrait photographer – from the early 1920s onwards her photographs were also featured in national and international exhibitions. They were also featured in Ullstein publications such as “Die Dame” and “UHU”. In 1930, she moved her studio to larger premises on Bleibtreustraße.
Like so many of her fellow Ullstein photographers, Yva suffered persecution under the National Socialist regime. In 1933, she was subject to a working ban. She was initially able to avoid this by working with an agency. In 1936, she transferred her company to a non-Jewish friend, so the studio could continue working. From 1936 a young Helmut Newton began his training with Yva in Berlin. Although she considered emigration a number of times, Yva and her husband remained in Berlin. In June 1942, they were arrested by the Gestapo and deported. They were both killed in extermination camps in occupied Poland; whether Lublin-Madjanek or Sobibór remains unclear.
Max Liebermann with the painter Rudolf Grossmann, 1930
This picture shows Max Liebermann in the music room of his house on Pariser Platz, together with the painter Rudolf Grossmann (1882–1941). The two artists were both members of the Berlin Secession. The photo was published in 1930 in an article in “Die Dame” with the title “Liebermann as collector”. On the wall behind Grossmann we see works by Degas and Manet.
The photographer Cami Stone (1892–1975) was born Wilhelmine Camille Schammelhout in the Belgian town of Vilvorde. She was first married to an American and lived for many years in New York, before moving to Berlin in 1918. Her new partner was Sasha Stone (1895–1940), born in St Petersburg, who was also a professional photographer. In 1924, Cami and Sasha Stone opened a photo studio together on Kurfürstenstraße in Berlin. They first specialised in industrial and commercial photography. Their works soon featured in important photography exhibitions of the time, such as “Film und Foto” (1929), “Fotografie der Gegenwart” (1929) and “Das Lichtbild” (1930) in Munich.
From 1931 the couple lived in Brussels, ending their relationship in 1939. Sasha Stone died in 1940 while fleeing the National Socialists. Cami Stone survived the war in Brussels.
Max Liebermann, portrait seated, 1932
The Ullstein Collection contains over 800 photographs and photomontages by Studio Balassa, dated between 1894 and 1936. Among them are portraits of famous names such as Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin. Further works show the theatres and concert halls of Berlin or document political events such as important visitors from overseas. Balassa photographed Max Liebermann a number of time. The earliest portrait shows the painter in Holland in the 1890s, working in the dunes near Katwijk. In summer 1932, Balassa visited Liebermann in his home at Wannsee. This picture was then published in the “Berliner Morgenpost” on 19 July 1932, one day before Liebermann’s 85th birthday.
We know very little about the photographer Bela Balassa and his biography. The stamps on the back of his pictures and entries in the telephone books of the time list a number of different company addresses during the 1920s and 30s: 1925 at 19 Lützow Ufer, 1929 at 56 Prinzenstraße, from 1930 at 54 Zimmerstraße in Kreuzberg, and in 1934 on Renate-Privatstraße – within short walking distance of the Ullstein premises in Tempelhof. The Balassa collection within the Ullstein archive has not yet been fully digitalised. The latest picture in the archive is dated to 1936 – two years after Ullstein was “Aryanised” and one year before the company was renamed “Deutscher Verlag”.
Photographic Art Institute of A. v. Freyberg
Max Liebermann between the columns of his villa, 1914
This photograph shows Max Liebermann’s villa in 1914, around four years after its completion. The 67-year old Liebermann stands with his hands on his hips, between the columns of the house, expectantly awaiting the arrival of his visitor.
The photograph was taken by the “Photographic Art Institute of A. v. Freyberg”, based at 34a Fregestraße in Berlin-Steglitz. The company advertised itself as “Studio for exterior photographs”. During this meeting with Liebermann the photographer indeed took a number of shots of the exterior of the villa and of the garden – and some of the only surviving photographs of the interior of the Liebermann-Villa. These photographs stand today as important documents of Max and Martha Liebermann’s art collection.
Little is known regarding “A v. Freyberg” and his company. Notes on the reverse of this 1914 print tell us that the photograph was published one year later in the Ullstein magazine “Die Dame”. This fashion magazine was launched in 1912 and was extremely popular, in particular for its articles exploring the private lives of famous figures. On its pages, the newest trends in clothing and interior design were illustrated as inspiration for the fashion conscious “new woman”.
Zander & Labisch
His Hands, 1927
In 1895, the engineer Albert Zander (1864–1897) first offered photographs to the “Berliner Illustrierten Zeitung”. In the same year he founded the company “Zander & Labisch Illustrative Photographs” together with the businessman Siegmund Labisch (1863–1942). They established their business at 105 Leipziger Straße, near many prominent publishers, and thus with their business partners on their doorstep. They specialised exclusively in press photographs. Albert Zander died shortly after the founding of the business. At first Labisch continued the business alone. In Autumn 1917, his nephew Paul Wittkowsky (1892–1949) joined him in the business.
Zander & Labisch frequently photographed Max Liebermann. The first known image in the Ullstein archive dates from 1904 and shows the artist in his studio. This photograph of Liebermann’s hands dates from 1927. It was published in this year both in the “Berliner Morgenpost” and in the “Zeitbilder” supplement of the “Vossische Zeitung” to commemorate Liebermann’s 80th birthday. On the reverse of this print is a note that the image was originally intended for an article with the title “The hand of the creative person”. Whether this article was indeed ever published remains unclear.
Siegmund Labisch came from a Jewish family. In 1933, he was subject to a working ban. In 1936, he was expelled from the Reich Association of German Correspondence and News Offices. In 1938, the company Zander & Labisch was dissolved and deleted from the trade register. Labisch was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and died there in 1942 aged 79. Paul Wittkowsky was able to escape into exile, emigrating to Australia in 1939 where he survived the Second World War.
Max Liebermann, before the plaster model of his bust, ca. 1932
Liebermann is photographed standing before a portrait bust of himself by the sculptor Edmund Möller. The sculpture was created as a gift for Liebermann’s 70th birthday in 1917 and remained in the family’s collection for over 25 years. Following Liebermann’s death the bust passed into the ownership of Martha Liebermann and later into the collection of the Berlin City Museum. In 2022, an agreement was reached with the heirs of Max and Martha Liebermann which allowed the sculpture to remain in the museum’s collection.
This photograph was taken in the villa at Wannsee, part of a series marking the artist’s 85th birthday. Further works from the series were published on 17 July 1932 in the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung”. This image was however not included in this July publication. The print is marked with the copyright note “Argusfot. International Press Service, Berlin, Wilhelmstraße 130”. This agency was led by a Mr L. Abegg; over 50 prints in the Ullstein archive bear the agency’s name. In the early 1930s, many different photographers worked for Argusfot; exactly who took this photograph is disputed. In some sources the photograph is attributed to Willi Ruge (1892–1961), and indeed the photo was certainly later sold over Ruges Agency. You can find more information about Willi Ruge later in our exhibition alongside the photograph of Martha Liebermann.
Other sources name Abraham Pisarek (1891–1983) as the author of this photograph. Pisarek photographed Max and Martha Liebermann a number of times in the years around 1930 and he clearly felt close to the family. It was he who was able to capture – with the help of a hidden camera – images from Max Liebermann’s funeral in February 1935. In 1936, he photographed the extensive Liebermann memorial exhibition held at the then-Jewish Museum at 31 Oranienburger Straße.
Max Liebermann in front of his Villa at Wannsee, with his granddaughter on his knee, 1922
This photograph shows Max Liebermann with his five-year-old granddaughter Maria Riezler (1917–1995), sitting on his terrace at Wannsee. Byk visited the artist in summer 1922 on the occasion of Liebermann’s 75th birthday – during this visit she took at least one further photograph showing Maria standing in the rose garden. Maria was Liebermann’s only grandchild – the daughter of his daughter Käthe and her husband Kurt Riezler. She regularly visited her grandparents at Wannsee and often appeared in Liebermann’s paintings of the Wannsee garden.
The biography of Suse Byk (1884–1943) can only be partly reconstructed. Susanne Sarah Wally Byk, born in Berlin and trained as a photographer between 1906 and 1909, probably in the photographic department of the Lette Verein, at that time one of the largest and best-known photography schools. In 1911, Suse Byk opened her own studio on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. In 1927, she was featured together with Yva and Frida Riess in an article in the magazine “Berliner Leben”, which explored how women were “conquering the art of photography”. In this article Byk is described as specializing in photographs of children.
In 1938, Byk and her husband Hans Falkenfeld were forced to leave Germany on the grounds of their Jewish identity. They fled via London to the United States and settled in New York, where they remained for the rest of their lives. The Riezler family were also able to escape Nazi Germany in this way. They also emigrated to New York in 1938.
Portrait of Max Liebermann, ca. 1925
Frieda Gertrud Riess (1890–1957) was born to a Jewish family in Posen (Poznań). Known as “The Riess”, she was among the most important photographers of the Weimar Republic. In 1913, she began her photographic training at the Lette Verein school in Berlin. Despite the outbreak of the First World War she was able to complete her training in 1915. By 1917 she was running her own photo studio on Kurfürstendamm. Her images appeared in Ullstein publications such as “Die Dame”, the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung” and the “Vossische Zeitung”. She found herself in international demand, travelled to Paris, London and Rome and exhibited her work in numerous exhibitions, for example in 1925 at the Gallery Flechtheim. Further proof of her status is delivered by the fact that photographs of her own holidays in Italy were featured in the Ullstein magazine “Der Querschnitt”.
This image of Liebermann can be dated to the mid-1920s. We see the artist in his garden at Wannsee. Further details of this visit are not known. The photograph was published to accompany a dedicatory piece by the critic Max Osborn published in the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung” on the occasion of Liebermann’s 80th birthday. In February 1933, Riess was interviewed for the magazine UHU. She was asked what is particularly challenging about photographing men for an article with the title “Men before the camera”. Her reply: “women are somewhat freer in front of a photographic lens, men however much more self-conscious. The woman never forgets that she is sitting before the photographic lens, but the man sees the picture as a regrettable interruption of the conversation”. In the same article Riess’ portrait of the Italian Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini is named as one of her most beautiful photographs.
Riess was able to leave Berlin in 1932. She continued her career in Paris, where she came into contact with figures such as Max Ernst and Marc Chagall. Following the German occupation of France in 1940 she was able to continue working under the pseudonym “Riess de Belsine”. She survived the war and died in 1957 in Paris.
Max Liebermann with his Dachshund in his garden on the pier at Wannsee, Berlin, 1932
Robert Sennecke (1885–1940) is extremely well-represented in the Ullstein archive, with more than 1.100 photographs. He was born in the city of Pyritz (Pyryzce) and began taking pictures before 1914. Some of his earliest works were sports photographs (he also competed as an Olympic marathon runner). Sennecke led his own photographic publishing house, employed up to six photographers, worked abroad and offered his pictures to international publishers. He was enlisted during the First World War and worked as an official war photographer. During these years he travelled in France, Flanders, Greece and Turkey. His first photographs of Liebermann date from the 1920s, for example in an image showing the artist at the opening of an exhibition at the Berlin Academy.
During his travels during the First World War Sennecke contracted Malaria, which remained undiagnosed for many years. His health was severely affected – by 1928 he was forced to hand his business over to his daughter Edith. It can therefore be assumed that this photograph was not taken by Sennecke himself.
In this picture we see the painter on the pier at Wannsee, shortly before his 85th birthday, accompanied by his dog – probably his third Dachshund “Nicki”. According to a note on the reverse of the picture it was published on 18 June 1932 in the Ullstein newspaper the “Berliner Morgenpost”. Today this edition of the newspaper is held as a microfilm in archives of the Berlin State Library. It seems however that this photograph was not published in this edition of the “Morgenpost”.
Portrait photograph of Martha Liebermann at Wannsee, 1932
Another photographer who captured Liebermann on the occasion of his 85th birthday was Willi Ruge (1892–1943). Here we see however not Max, but the artist’s wife Martha (1857–1943). Martha is seated on the lakeside terrace, viewed through the window of one of the ground floor rooms. It seems that Ruge’s series from this visit remained unpublished during his lifetime. The original prints each bear on their reverse a quote of Max Liebermann’s, one of which reads: “Yes, listen to me my dear, if you’d like to make me happy on my birthday then try to take a photograph of my wife – you’ll never catch her!”. Yet Ruge was indeed able to capture Martha. On the back of this print Ruge wrote, “Calm after the storm. The wife of Professor Liebermann is photographed, unobserved from inside a room”.
Willi Ruge worked as an optician before he discovered the craft of photography. Through his agency “Presse Verlag Photoaktuell” her was able, from 1912 onwards, to deliver the expanding newspaper industry with pictures of the day. In the First World War he worked as a pilot and war photographer on the Western and Eastern Fronts. His fascination with speed and movement was made clear in his often experimental photographs from this time. In 1928, for example of series of works which played with perspective were published in the magazine “Das Buch für Alle” as “photographic jokes”.
In the Second World War Ruge served again as a war reporter and worked in Poland, Norway, France and across Africa. From 1945 he returned to work as a press photographer in West Berlin. He died in Offenburg in 1961.
Felix H. Man / Dephot
Max Liebermann, exhausted in an armchair, 1931
Felix H. Man (1898–1985) war born Hans Felix Sigismund Baumann in Freiburg im Breisgau. He began his career at Ullstein as a sports illustrator for the newspaper “BZ. am Mittag”. One year later, he began working as a photographer at the Ullstein magazine Tempo. In 1932, he was placed under contract with the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung”. In this role he undertook spectacular travels to Africa, Canada and the Artic. His photographs were also sold over the Berlin “Dephot” agency. Further information regarding Dephot is on show in this room by the photograph of Liebermann with his family.
In this photograph we see Liebermann in his studio on Pariser Platz in Spring 1931. Further photographs from Man’s meeting with Liebermann were published in 1931 in the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung” in an article titled “The beauty of age in remarkable people”. The published photographs show Liebermann standing at his desk, reading without his glasses or painting a self-portrait while using a mirror. In this photograph however we see the exhaustion rather than the beauty of the 80 year-old Liebermann. Perhaps it is for this reason that this image was not included in the article. The picture seems like a premonition of what the artist would face over the following years. Just two years after this photograph was taken Liebermann was forced to give up his position as honorary president of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.
Felix H. Man was born to a Jewish family. He left Nazi Germany in 1934 and emigrated to Great Britain. In London his fellow-émigré Stefan Lorant found him a job at his newly-founded magazine “Weekly Illustrated”. Many of Man’s pictures appeared in this magazine; he also received commissions – among others – from the “Daily Mirror and Picture Post”.
Portrait of Max Liebermann, ca. 1930
This photograph was taken in the winter of 1930-1931. In the estate of the photographer Fritz Eschen (1900–1964) we find a series of contact sheets from this meeting with Liebermann. This work belongs to group of photos taken in Liebermann’s Palais on Pariser Platz. On 7 April 1931 Liebermann wrote to Eschen: “Dear Sir, I thank you very much for sending the photos you took of me: they are excellent and I cannot criticise them in any way”.
Fritz Eschen was born in 1900 to a Jewish family in Berlin. During the First World War he worked as a radio operator; after the war he worked as a salesman at a telephone company. In 1928, he turned to photography. In the trade register of 1931 he is listed as co-owner of the photography agency “Fotag”.
At the end of 1933, Eschen was excluded from the Reich Press Association, after failing to deliver the required “proof of Aryan ancestry”. His work declined sharply, as he could now only work for foreign companies. Later he was subjected to forced labour. In July 1939, his application to emigrate to the United States was declined.
Fritz Eschen was saved only by his marriage to the non-Jewish Lipsy (Gertrude) Thumm. He survived the war in Berlin. Directly after the end of the War he took a series of photographs documenting the destruction of Berlin. In 1954, he was appointed picture editor at the “Neue Zeitung”, one of the most important post-war newspapers in West Germany.
Felix H. Man / Dephot
Max Liebermann with his wife Martha, daughter Käthe and granddaughter Maria in their apartment on Pariser Platz, 1931
This picture came to the Ullstein archive via the “Deutscher Photodienst” picture archive, also known as “Dephot”. These agencies acted as middlemen between the photographers and the publishing houses, commissioning picture and story ideas and selling the prints to the editors of the various titles (you can find out more about the photographer Felix H. Man in this exhibition alongside the picture of Liebermann exhausted in an armchair).
Dephot was founded in Berlin in 1928 under the leadership of Simon Guttmann (1891–1900). Guttmann was a poet and a man of letters; he was in contact with the artists of the Brücke group in Dresden and spent the First World War in Zürich, where he moved in Dada circles. Dephot was quick to make a name for itself in Berlin – not only for the modernity of its pictures, but also for a progressive fee structure, whereby the photographers did not have to give up all rights to their pictures. Dephot’s first significant partner was the photographer Otto Umbehr, also known as Umbo. In the years around 1930, other photographers associated with the agency included Robert Capa and Felix H. Man.
This photo was taken in 1931. Max and Martha Liebermann, their daughter Käthe and their granddaughter Maria are seated around the dinner table in their apartment at Pariser Platz. Clearly Dephot sent this picture to more than one publishing house. In 1932, the image appeared in “Der Weltspiegel”, published by the publisher Rudolf Mosse, on the occasion of Liebermann’s 85th birthday. In the same year Dephot began experiencing financial difficulties. The company was restructured and renamed “Degephot”. In Autumn 1933, the company was dissolved by the Nazi regime. Simon Guttmann left Germany and survived the War in French – and later in British – exile.
Max Liebermann, Portrait 1931
In the May of 1931, Erich Salomon (1886–1944) visited Max Liebermann in his palais on Pariser Platz. Here he photographed the artist in his music room, dressed in a light striped suit, looking questioningly towards the viewer.
Salomon, born in Berlin, was among the most highly-renowned photographers of his day. In 1925, he began working the advertising department of Ullstein; in 1927, his first photograph was published by the company. He was soon under contract with the “Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung” and travelled across Europe and America taking photograph for the newspaper. His 1931 book titled “Famous Personalities in unguarded moments” made him one of the most famous photographers in Germany.
At the time of the National Socialist assumption of power in January 1933 Salomon was with his wife Maggy (1889–1944) and youngest son Dirk (1920–1944) in The Hague. Here they remained, the older son Otto (1913–2006) managing in 1934 to bring his father’s most valuable glass negatives from Berlin into safety. Following the German occupation of the Netherlands the family were forced into hiding. In 1943 Erich, Maggy and Dirk Salomon were arrested in Scheveningen and sent via Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, where they were murdered in 1944. Only Otto survived the war. He escaped into British exile, from 1944 taking the name Peter Hunter. Only thanks to his actions were Erich Salomon’s photographs saved for future generations.