Max Liebermann’s thoughts on imagination in art

by Chantal

Max Liebermann. Liebespaar auf einem Spaziergang im Grunewald. 1920-22.

Excerpts from Max Liebermann’s writings “Imagination In Painting” which was first published in Die Neue Rundschau in 1904:

“Imagination alone can animate the canvas, and it is imagination that must guide the painter’s hand, must literally penetrate to the very tips of his fingers. Although imagination is itself invisible, it makes itself visible in every brushstroke, if only for those with eyes to see, only for those who can sense and feel its presence.

[…] The value of a work of visual art is utterly independent of what it depicts or represents. It is solely the inventiveness and the expressive potential of its form that constitutes its true value.

[…] It is not only a question of what one sees, but also of who is seeing it  [. . .] ‘Nothing is beautiful in itself; it is our perceiving that first makes it so’

[…] The imperishable dimension of works of art is the spirit within them, the spirit which presents the finished work to the inner eye of the painter even before he has made the first brushstroke upon the canvas. And art, like spirit, is unbounded, reaching out as far as the expressive potential of its technical means permit. To extend expressive potential is to expand the domain of art itself, of the only art that is true, of art that is born of the hand but begotten of imagination”