Max Pollak Biography

Max Pollak

American

1886-1970

Biography

Max Pollak, painter and printmaker, was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on February 2, 1886, but his family moved to Vienna, Austria when he was six months old. He was raised in Vienna and, in 1902, at sixteen years of age he entered the Vienna Academy of Art. He studied painting and printmaking under William Unger and Ferdinand Schmutzer. In 1912, he traveled to Italy, France, and Holland to study and paint. During the First World War, he was appointed painter of the Austrian Army.

He immigrated to the U.S. in 1927, living for a time on the East Coast where he traveled about and produced an amazing series of color aquatints of New York, Cincinnati, and Detroit. His first exhibition at the 57th Street Art Gallery in New York was a commercial success and he was commissioned by Theodore Dreiser in 1929 to illustrate his book, My City, and eight of Pollak's color aquatints are reproduced in the book. In 1938, Pollak and his wife, Friedl, moved to San Francisco, California. Pollak was inspired by his new city and its environs and produced beautiful views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sausalito. Later travels were to Mexico and Guatemala.

Pollak was equally facile working in drypoint, aquatint, and soft ground etching. One of his specialties was portraiture and he produced a number of drypoints of noteworthy people and dancers. Some of his color aquatints of San Francisco and Sausalito were derived from views from his homes in those cities. His graphic oeuvre is comprised of over 500 prints for which he won numerous awards including the Chicago Society of Etchers prize in 1942, and the California Society of Etchers awards in 1942, 1944, and 1945. Pollak exhibited at the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939 and had numerous solo exhibitions, including a 1928 show in New York, a 1940 show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and a 1973 exhibition at the Triton Museum in Santa Clara.

He was a member of the Chicago Society of Etchers and the California Society of Etchers and his work is represented in the Oakland Museum of California Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the de Young Memorial Museum, the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, and the British Museum, the Judah L. Magnes Museum, and Princeton University.

Max Pollak died in Sausalito, California on May 29, 1970.