Max Jakob Friedländer Biography

Max Jakob Friedländer (5 July 1867, Berlin - 11 October 1958, Amsterdam) was a German art expert and art historian. He attained the rank and title of "Geheimrat" (privy councillor) under the German Empire.

Friedländer did not think of himself as an art historian so much as a connoisseur. He gave priority to a critical reading based on sensitivity rather than on grand artistic and or aesthetic theories. He described it as follows: "If the determination of the authorship of an individual work of art most certainly is not the ultimate and highest task of artistic erudition; even if it were no path to the goal: nevertheless, without a doubt, it is a school for the eye, since there is no formulation of a question which forces us to penetrate so deeply the essence of an individual work as that concerning the identity of the author. The individual work, rightly understood, teaches us what a comprehensive knowledge universal artistic activity is incapable of teaching us."

During his lifetime he took high quality photographs of artwork wherever he travelled. His personal archive with approximately 15,000 photos and reproductions of 15th and 16th century paintings from the North and South Netherlands are often accompanied with notes including such things as the provenance, attribution, relative condition, and location of the paintings. The majority of his work has been transcribed and digitised in the "RKDimages" database of the Dutch National Institute of Art History (RKD) and forms an important open access archive for art historians.