Julius Meier-Graefe

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Meier-Graefe, Julius
Born Meier, Julius
June 10, 1867
Pesitza, Banat, Hungary, now Romania
Died June 5, 1935
Vevey, Switzerland
Nationality German
Julius Meier-Graefe by Lovis Corinth.

Julius Meier-Graefe (June 10, 1867 – June 5, 1935) was a German art critic and novelist. His writings on Impressionism, Post-Impressionism as well as on art of earlier and more recent generations, with his most important contributions translated into French, Russian and English, are considered to have been instrumental for the understanding and the lasting success of these artistic movements.


Meier-Graefe was born in Reschitz, Banat, Hungary, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now located in modern Romania. He was the son of Eduard Meier, a government civil engineer, and Marie Graefe, (d. 1867) who died giving birth to him. The family, including his brother Max Meier, moved to a small town near Düsseldorf, Germany. He chose the hyphenated surname Meier-Graefe to honour the mother he never knew.

After studying engineering in Munich in 1888 and marrying Clotilde Vitzthum von Eckstädt (who was related to the art historian Georg Vitzthum von Eckstädt), he moved to Berlin, where, in 1890, he took up the study of history in general and art history in particular. He began his literary career as a fiction writer with two novellas, "Ein Abend bei Laura" (1890) and "Nach Norden" (1893), His first work of art criticism was published in 1894; the topic was Edvard Munch. In 1895 he was among the founders of the arts and literary periodical Pan, but he left the magazine after a year and founded the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) magazine Dekorative Kunst in 1897 and soon thereafter opened La Maison Moderne, a gallery that showcased Art Nouveau works. The gallery closed in 1903.

The centennial exhibition of German art in the National Gallery in Berlin in 1906 featured Meier-Graefe's presentation of previously little-known works, and through his efforts, the art of Caspar David Friedrich was first introduced to a wider audience. Similarly, his 1910 book "Spanische Reise" ("Spanish Journey") led to the "rediscovery" of El Greco and the positioning of the artist as a forerunner to the Expressionists.

Relocating to Paris, Meier-Graefe turned his attention on 19th century French painting; his 3-volume history of modern art (1904 and 1914–24) canonized the importance of French Impressionism. He wrote important biographies of many artists, including Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh.

Like many assimilated Jews of his era, Meier-Graefe was a loyal German, and when World War I broke out, he volunteered in the German army. He was sent to the Eastern front in 1915 and was captured and interned in a Russian POW camp in 1916. Upon his return to Germany in 1917, he divorced his first wife and married his second wife, Helene Lienhardt. The couple lived in Dresden, but travelled often, and considered France, especially Paris, a second home.

Meier-Graefe's third marriage was to Anna Marie Epstein (October 14, 1905 - ), who was about 38 years his junior, and a wealthy heiress. She was the only child of Else Kohn (March 22, 1880 - ) and Walter Epstein (May 11, 1874 - February 3, 1918); her grandparents were Adolf Kohn, a prominent German-Jewish banker, and Anna Michaelis.

In 1930, Meier-Graefe and Epstein rented an estate called La Banette in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer and they stayed there to escape the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany, where he was under attack for his promotion of what the National Socialists called "Degenerate Art." Meier-Graefe and Epstein encouraged and helped the landscape painter Walter Bondy and the writer René Schickele to relocate to the area as well, and they were a decisive impetus in the formation of a large German-Jewish refugee arts-colony in neighboring Sanary-sur-Mer, whose members included Thomas Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Ludwig Marcuse.

He died in Vevey, Switzerland at the age of 67.


Der Fall Böcklin und die Lehre von den Einheiten

Entwicklungsgeschichte der modernen Kunst, Vergleichende Betrachtung der bildenden Künste, als Beitrag zu einer neuen Aesthetik. 3 vols. Verlag Julius Hofmann, Stuttgart 1904

2nd revised and enlarged edition, R. Piper & Co. Verlag, München 1914 - 1922

Impressionisten: Guys - Manet - Van Gogh - Pissarro - Cézanne. Mit einer Einleitung über den Wert der französischen Kunst und sechzig Abbildungen. R. Piper & Co. Verlag, Munich & Leipzig ¹1907 & ²1907

Three of these chapters have been reprinted separately, revised and enlarged:
Édouard Manet
Vincent van Gogh, R. Piper & Co., Munich (Cover design after a drawing by Vincent van Gogh)
4. - 6. Td.; 50 ill. and facsimile of a letter. R. Piper & Co., Munich 1912 (published in two printings with deferring illustrations!)
4th, improved edition; 50 ill. (not 40 ill., as stated on the title page!) and facsimile of a letter. R. Piper & Co., Munich 1918
5th, improved edition; 50 ill. and facsimile of a letter. R. Piper & Co., Munich 1922
6th, improved edition, 14. - 16. Td.; 54 ill. and facsimile of a letter. R. Piper & Co., Munich 1929
Paul Cézanne, R. Piper & Co., Munich (Cover designed by Franz Marc, after a painting by Paul Cézanne)
5th, totally revised edition, 7. - 10. Td.; 38 ill. R. Piper & Co., Munich 1923

Auguste Renoir, R. Piper & Co., Munich

5th edition, "to be published 1924"


Re-edited 1924

Vincent, 2 vols. 103 plates. R. Piper & Co., Munich ²1922

Pre-release serialised in Der Neue Merkur 3 (1919/1920)& 4 (1920/1921):
Vincent und Theo, Der Neue Merkur 3 (1919/1920), special issue: "Werden", pp. 37–78
Van Gogh in Paris, Der Neue Merkur 4 (1920/1921), pp. 143–169
Van Gogh in Arles, Der Neue Merkur 4 (1920/1921), pp. 445–460
Das Gelbe Haus, Der Neue Merkur 4 (1920/1921), pp. 523–532
Van Gogh und Gauguin, Der Neue Merkur 4 (1920/1921), pp. 622–643
Fou-Roux (Der rote Narr), Der Neue Merkur 4( 1920/1921), pp. 685–696
Van Gogh in St. Remy, Der Neue Merkur 4 (1920/1921), pp. 769–786
Das Ende Van Goghs, Der Neue Merkur 4 (1920/1921), pp. 822–841

Vincent van Gogh, der Zeichner. 52 plates. Otto Wacker-Verlag, Berlin 1928

printed in December 1927, see colophon

Renoir, Klinkhardt & Biermann Verlag, Leipzig 1929, with 407 illustrations and 10 plates

Gestandnisse meines vetters - novellen , 1923 , Ernst Rowohlt verlag in Berlin