Max Weber (1881-1961)
Oil, charcoal, and collaged paper on linen
Overall: 40 × 48 1/8 in. (101.6 × 122.2 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
This work depicts a Chinese restaurant, one of the many that were opening in New York City in the early twentieth century as a growing number of Asian immigrants settled in America. Max Weber, himself an immigrant, sought to capture the hustle-and-bustle and ornate décor typical of New York’s Chinese restaurants. He achieved these effects by assimilating the lessons of French Cubism, evident in the kaleidoscopic composition of fragmented forms, fractured planes, and patterned sections that recall the wallpaper often incorporated in Cubist collage. Although Weber’s painting is largely abstract, the artist provides clues to its subject in the pattern of the checkered restaurant floor, the scrolled leg of a table, the Chinese red, black, and gold color scheme, and the suggestion of tabletops. For contemporary audiences, Chinese Restaurant exemplified how thoroughly Weber was able to translate European modernism into a potent vehicle for expressing the dynamism of the new American urban landscape.