Max Arthur Cohn (Biographical details)

Max Arthur Cohn (painter/draughtsman; American (USA); Male; 1903 - 1998)

Also known as

Cohn, Max Arthur


Cohn was born in London and emigrated with his family to America in 1905, settling in New York. In 1920 he worked at a commercial art studio, where he was introduced to the screenprint process. In 1922 he enrolled at the Art Students League where his teacher John Sloan was a formative influence and his classmates included Alexander Calder, Adolph Gottlieb and John Graham. To broaden his knowledge of art and painting, Cohn left for Paris in 1927 and enrolled at the Académie Colarossi, which had a large number of American students. He claimed that he was influenced by Matisse and Picasso in his use of colour, and his paintings of this period were shown in his first solo show at the New York Civic Club in 1929.

Following a second stay in France in the early 1930s, Cohn joined the Easel Project of the New York City WPA/FAP from the mid-1930s. His paintings were largely industrial scenes of power plants, factories and waterfronts. He also began to make screenprints; the earliest date from the mid-1930s and show rural activities, such as Wheatfield Harvest, 1935 (fig. 8). From the late 1930s Cohn focused primarily on the colour screenprint, extending his themes to the industrial waterfronts of New York. Many of his screenprints imitated the transparency of a watercolour in their effect; others, like Red Abstraction (cat.91), were printed with opaque colours. Between 1941 and 1949 he produced at least fifteen screenprints, several of which were abstract, and as a founding member in 1944 of the National Serigraph Society became a leading advocate of the screenprint as a fine-art technique. In 1942 he co-authored with J.I. Biegeleisen, Chairman of the Silk Screen Department in the School of Industrial Art, New York, the widely used technical guide, Silk Screen Stencilling as a Fine Art (enlarged and republished in 1958 as Silk Screen Techniques). During the 1950s Cohn ran a commercial graphics studio in New York where he helped the young Andy Warhol make his first screenprints. He died in 1998 in New York, aged ninety-five.

Cohn is represented in the British Museum by nineteen screenprints made between 1934 and 1950; seventeen of these were presented by his daughter Jane Waldbaum and son-in-law Steve Morse in 2001.


J.I. Biegeleisen and Max Arthur Cohn, 'Silk Screen Techniques', New York: Dover Publications, 1958