Max Kaus (* 11 March 1891 in Berlin; † 5 August 1977 ibid.) was a German painter, graphic artist and deputy director at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Berlin, which has existed as the Universität der Künste Berlin since 1975. He was an important representative of German Modernism.
Max Kau's early work
Kaus began his artistic training in 1905 with an apprenticeship as a painter. As this was not sufficient for him, he began training as a decorative painter at the Berlin School of Applied Arts in 1908.
During the First World War, Kaus volunteered and worked as a medic for three years from 1915. During this time he met Otto Herbig and Erich Heckel, among others. Inspired by Heckel's work, he produced several woodcuts and lithographs. Erich Heckel quickly developed into Kaus' artistic and human role model.
After the war, in 1920, Kaus joined the artists' group "Freie Sezession" in Berlin. There he met Otto Mueller and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. As part of the artists' group, his works were regularly exhibited.
Three years later he marries Gertrud Kant, called Turu. In 1926 Kaus took up a teaching post for landscape painting, nude and animal drawing at the Meisterschule für das Kunsthandwerk in Berlin, and one year later he was awarded the Alfred Dürer Prize of the city of Nuremberg. This prize was followed in 1928 by the Günther Wagner Prize of the German Artists' Association and in 1929 by the Villa Romana Prize of the German Artists' Association.
In the 1930s he created many landscape motifs inspired by travels within Germany, but also through Austria and Italy. In 1935 Kaus became a teacher of figurative painting at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen in Berlin. In the same year, the artist took part in the Venice Biennale.
Max Kaus as a degenerate artist
With the seizure of power by the National Socialists, Max Kaus was increasingly restricted in his artistic work. In 1937, all of the artist's works were removed from German museums. The following year he had to resign from his teaching position. During the Second World War, his studio in Berlin was completely destroyed. After the death of his wife in 1944, Kaus married Brigitte Kramm in the same year.
Shortly before the end of the war, the artist was drafted into the Volkssturm. After the war, he survived and was offered a teaching position at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin, which he held until 1968.
Three years later he divorced Brigitte Kaus.
In 1949 Max Kaus was appointed professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. In 1953 Kaus became deputy director of this institution alongside Karl Hofer. In the same year he marries Sigrid Reinke.
Two years later, Kaus became a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1959, the artist was a guest of honour at the Villa Massimo in Rome.
In 1963 he was awarded the Berlin Art Prize, which is awarded annually by the Academy of Arts on behalf of the Berlin Senate.
Max Kaus died in Berlin on the fifth of August 1977.
Stylistically, Kaus' work was oriented towards German Expressionism, inspired among others by his friend and mentor Erich Heckel. Artistically, he belongs to the second generation of Expressionists. Unlike many Expressionists, however, Kaus painted little in the open air.
The painterly work of Max Kaus after the Second World War seems like an attempt to reassemble the shards of a broken world. Rome paintings, as well as portraits and still lifes, characterise his oeuvre of the last creative years.