The Artist’s Wife reading
  • Max Liebermann
  • Berlin 1847 - 1935
  • The Artist’s Wife reading, 1885
  • Black chalk over pencil, on creme paper
  • signature-estate-stamp on the lower left (not in Lugt)
  • 236 × 311 mm
Estate of the artist
Collection Friedrich Winkler, Berlin
Gallery Arnoldi-Livie, Munich (1978)
Private collection, Berlin

In September 1884, Max Liebermann married his sister-in-law and acquaintance since childhood, Martha Marckwald (18571943). The young pair moved into an apartment at In den Zelten 11, on the northern edge of the Tiergarten, where their first and only child Käthe (1885-1952) entered the world on 19 August of the following year. The birth nearly cost the mother her life, and her pregnancy was extremely troublesome already.

This compelled Martha Liebermann to tend to the house, and increasingly often she spent the days lying down. Her husband used this repose for numerous drawings and studies of his wife, as for instance on this sheet. It shows his pregnant wife reading, comfortably reclining on a kind of divan. Max Liebermann focuses this drawing with the utmost care on the portrait of Martha, who always wears her hair tightly pulled back and is wrapped up to her neck in a warm shawl. The other surroundings remained unexecuted, but the atmosphere of the situation seems tangible to the viewer nonetheless.

Liebermann apparently first began the study the other way around, as suggested by a discarded, fleeting portrait at the lower right that now stands upside-down. The estate stamp confirms that the artist retained this drawing in his personal collection until his death.

We are grateful to Drs. Margreet Nouwen for confirming the attribution of this drawing.