Max Shertz: Artist of the Unconscious

March 25, 1933 – October 15, 2009

“I have followed this talent closely for a number of years, carefully appraising the obvious good taste, sincerity, elegance and distinction seen in the painted results. Improvisation enters strongly into his paintings with lyricism and line of color poetically aligned while a rhythmic movement throughout prevails. The paintings are invariably enhanced with color, luminosity and the sparkle of paint handling that is frequently startling and impressive. Viewed were oil and pastel on paper, a medium that seems to have been willed into the hands of its creator. Mr. Shertz bears constant watching lest we miss a superb young stylist whose destiny is secure in the hands of posterity.”

Art in America magazine, 1972

“Some people say that the most mysterious, paradoxical art is created by reclusive souls. My father was surely one of those people.”

Dana Shertz, son of Max Shertz

“Although Max Shertz was certainly no angel, he exerted an extraordinary influence on nearly any sensitive person who spent more than two hours with him. The first hour he could be incredibly charming, behave himself and be characteristically charismatic. However, by the second hour Max could never contain himself when he perceived, psychically you might say, all the lies, denials, confusion, contradictions and bullshit that flesh is heir to. He would roar, a lion of God, and even scare people enough for the hair on their heads to stand up. Whoever paid attention realized by hour three that their lives might never be the same if they spent any more time with him.”

Daniel Kaufman, student of Max Shertz

Max Shertz, Brooklyn born and bred, was the son of fitness-obsessed parents who often took him to Brighton Beach to do calisthenics. They dressed him in a sailor suit to visit grandparents, the amusement park and the boardwalk for pony rides and egg creams. The first few years of Shertz’s early life were idyllic.

Shertz’s father, Benjamin Shertz, had a strong orthodox Jewish background. The family came from Galicia, Austria, bringing traditions of immaculate homes with waxed wooden floors, heavy draperies and lace doilies. Disciplined and unforgiving, Ben was a body builder, handball champion, Golden Gloves champion boxer and self-defense instructor. A member of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, he woke each morning at 5, jogged to the ocean and swam to Rockaway Beach and back. Then he went to work at the Internal Revenue Service.

Shertz’s mother, Evelyn Weller, came from a background of talented classical musicians. Her mother, Bertha Weller, was a classical pianist who had toured Europe and America with her siblings and father. Evelyn grew up surrounded by music and could play the piano by ear.

Evelyn and Ben married young. Evelyn was a gifted, beautiful free spirit who rebelled against her perfectionist husband. As tensions in their marriage rose, America entered World War II. Men were mobilized and women left their aprons at home to work for the war effort.

When Shertz was nine, Ben left home and served in the war in Italy with the 36th Infantry, Texas Division. He won a Purple Heart at Monte Cassino.

With Ben away, Evelyn worked days at a defense plant. The combination of her freedom and worsening relationship with her husband led her to fraternize at local taverns. She took a few sailors home, and Shertz’s orderly life began to crumble. He longed for his dad, and anger became a constant friend.

When the wounded soldier returned home in 1944, he learned ugly truths about Evelyn and turned away from his wife and son. Shertz felt betrayed and abandoned, not understanding why his father left.

After divorcing Ben, Evelyn met and fell in love with his antithesis: a cop of Norwegian descent who loved to drink and hated Jews. Shertz called his stepfather “Gestapo Karl.” Karl and Evelyn went to bars, partying into the night. Sometimes, when she was too drunk to interfere, Karl took Shertz to the cellar, where, in freezing winter or scorching summer, he tied him to a pipe, burned him with cigarettes or poured pork fat down his throat. That’s when the boy started drawing – to escape the unimaginable horrors of abuse.

Naturally, Shertz needed to escape, both physically and mentally. With his best friend, a kid from Harlem also abused and from a broken home, he roamed the streets of New York. The boys sold newspapers and Christmas trees. They shined shoes in front of the Stork Club, meeting celebrities including Milton Berle and Paul Valentine. Sometimes the boys rode the subway to Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights, where, at the Hotel St. George, they rented a locker, swam in the pool and enjoyed a hot shower – a brief taste of the good life.

Once Shertz, age 13, visited the famous Cedar Tavern at 24 University Place, Greenwich Village, the hangout of prominent abstract-expressionist painters and beat writers. Shertz was intrigued. He listened to the talk of art, and the passion of the artists moved him. He lingered in the tavern and watched the artist Jackson Pollock drink to oblivion, reeking of alcohol – like Shertz’s mother. The boy also met Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, who showed up to shepherd Pollock home.

Inspired, Shertz invested his meager earnings in art supplies. When his mother and stepfather drank too much and argued, he immersed himself into his new discovered passion and drew furiously until the sounds of debauchery faded away. He saw art as his escape from this hell.

As an adolescent, Shertz wanted to reconnect with his father’s Orthodox Jewish relatives. One time he hopped the subway and dropped in on his kosher grandmother. He breathed the traditional aromas of chicken stewing, strudel baking, wooden floors newly waxed. When grandmother embraced the boy, she felt something in his pocket – a ham-and-cheese sandwich! – and emitted a stream of Yiddish abuse. How dare he! The combination of meat and dairy products violated dietary laws. She threw out the sandwich and her grandson, thereby terminating the relationship.

The loss deeply wounded Shertz. Rejected by his family, he presented an arrogant front and decided never again to show his vulnerabilities. He vowed to protect himself by not getting close to the people he loved. Throughout his life, with few exceptions, he upheld this pledge.

Starting out on his own

Shertz constantly thought of his father, though, alternating between love and hate. Emulating Ben, he immersed himself in boxing and minor-league baseball. After graduating from Erasmus High School, Shertz lied about his age and joined the Marines at age 17. Very few details of his military life are known, as he spoke little of it, but he was part of the Amphibious RECON team. Injured during early combat, he receivied both a Purple Heart and a Korean Service Medal.

In 1952, at age 20, the returning young veteran decided to pursue art seriously and enrolled in the art students’ league of New York. He also studied with Hans Hofmann, the German-American teacher and artist, who made a lasting impression on Shertz and his development as an artist.

To earn a living, Shertz worked in a restaurant owned by a maternal uncle. He connected with the clientele, particularly the women, who took him to the Palladium Ballroom and Roseland Ballroom, where he learned popular Latin dances. He made friends with Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis, Jr., and with mambo stars Augie and Margo Rodriguez and Tito Puente.

To escape the heat of summer, Shertz and some Brooklyn friends found work in the “Borscht Belt” of the New York Catskills Mountains. A camp counselor by day, Shertz passed his evenings teaching dance to the Jewish housewives summering at the legendary Grossinger’s and Concord resorts. These women enjoyed torrid romances with young male counselors – and offered substantial tips.

Shertz’s Brooklyn friends at the time included Lenny Bruce, Sandy Baron and Jackie Mason, current or future stars of comedy and the stage. Conversation often turned to California, particularly the year-round sun, lush life and beautiful girls of Los Angeles. Although Shertz continued painting, he longed to experience that freedom and to avoid his distressing family situation. He joined the westward migration at age 22.

Another uncle, Daniel Weller, a charismatic neurosurgeon in Hollywood, married to columnist and magazine writer Helen Hover, invited Shertz to stay. Helen introduced Shertz to her brother, Herman Hover, who owned Ciro’s, then the hottest nightclub in Los Angeles. Shertz virtually lived at Ciro’s, where, again, he befriended celebrities, this time including Jerry Lewis, Walter Winchell and Marilyn Monroe, and reconnected with Sammy Davis, Jr. Ciro’s habitués liked Shertz, who was not intimidated by their fame. They opened doors for him in Hollywood, and he became an actor – a bad one, in his own opinion – performing just enough to survive.

In the early 1950s, Shertz worked at some of the same clubs as the Will Mastin Trio, starring Sammy Davis, Jr., and they often traveled together. Since many mainstream hotels still shunned blacks, including Davis, Shertz stayed where Davis and his trio did.

After a few months, he moved to the home of Tallulah Bankhead, where young, aspiring actors received cheap room and board. After work, he went to the Hollywood Palladium, where, to the mambo strains of “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” he met his future wife, Edith May Tunick. They were both 23, but Shertz grayed his temples, called himself a sophisticated “continental” and claimed to be 33. Shertz enthralled Edi with tales of New York, the art world, the Marines, the Catskills and his famous friends. Edi said, “Even at this age Max was so full of life, so intense, and had so much energy and magnetism. He was hard to ignore.”

Shertz had no money but didn’t acknowledge that he was broke. Three weeks after Shertz and Edi met, Judge Ida May Adams, known in Hollywood as the “the marrying judge,” helped them tie the knot at Los Angeles City Hall. After the ceremony, Edi’s mother, whom Shertz met that day for the first time, took the newlyweds to lunch at Clifton Cafeteria, paying for Edi’s meal but not the groom’s. A love was not born.

Shertz and Edi rented an apartment in Hollywood. A year later, they had their first child, Marla, followed by Dana, Nilda and Joshua. Distracted by four children and the glamor of Hollywood, Shertz let his art lapse. Instead, he relied on his easy rapport with people, his charismatic energy and his facile entertaining, as the family made Los Angeles their home and Hollywood their scene. Shertz expressed his creativity by staging near-daily “happenings.” With friends including Sal Mineo, Gene Barry and Nehemiah Persoff, Shertz found a few television roles, primarily in Dobie Gillis. He briefly hosted a Saturday-afternoon TV show called Gateway to Glamour, interviewing celebrities. Occasionally he served as a talent agent. Life was exciting.

Always seeking excitement

However, even the exhilaration and excitement of Hollywood did not satisfy Shertz, who felt restless, unsettled, not having grounded himself yet, in what he knew was his true calling: art. What he craved was the excitement of being his own master, an artist.

To fight his demons, Shertz sometimes rounded up his family and moved to a new location, even abandoning lucrative situations. They lived in Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Pittsburgh and New York. Wherever he went, Shertz found work: managing a law office, running a dog kennel or back in entertainment.

Shertz lived his life in the moment without fear of how they would get by in the future, the way he approached his art later on, spontaneous and automatically. His tales of survival in each new city were so incredible that they drew skepticism from friends and associates.

Once, arriving in New York with no money, the Shertz family rode a taxi to Forest Hills, N.Y., where Shertz thought some friends might be gathering. He told Edi and the kids to wait in a park near the Forest Hills Inn, where they could not afford to stay. He asked the owner of the inn, “Didn’t anyone tell you we are shooting a movie here?” He took the owner out for coffee and so enthralled him that he provided a complimentary suite of rooms for six months. In exchange, Shertz arranged for talent shows at the nightclub and introduced the owner to some celebrities. The children adored ordering from room service.

That gig soon led to Shertz’s meeting some well-heeled investors, who backed him opening a new nightclub. The place was two levels: the top floor for singers, and the lower floor for a comedy club he called “the Nut Box” where he booked comedians and other acts, including some of his friends from the Catskills.

Returning to art – at least for now

At this point, Shertz realized that the creative opportunities in entertainment did not satisfy. He felt called to paint. He decided to focus completely on his art, certain that it was and always had been his one true passion.

It was 1965, and Shertz, 32 years old, quickly befriended important artists of the New York scene, some who he had met and worked with while studying years earlier at the Art Students League or with Hofmann. He often took his older son, Dana, to the studios of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, as well as young newcomer, Reginald Pollack. Shertz spent years working with and learning from these and other artists who exerted an artistic influence. It was a time of great discovery, which was redefining Shertz’s life.

Shertz painted a portrait of Reginald Pollack, called Mysterious Images, which he felt was pivotal in his new style. In 1974, the comic actor Sandy Baron presented Mysterious Images to the Brooklyn Museum, where it became part of the permanent collection.

Life imitated Shertz’s art: constantly surprising and changing, no experience repeated, always unique. It seems that he had shpilkes, a Yiddish word meaning pins and needles. A quiet period made him want action, then great social immersion screamed for solitude. Any success or setback could cause a change of plans. His art, his marriage and his parenting all sagged under the pressure of his shpilkes.

Edi said of the time, “Despite the fact that Max always said he wanted peace and quiet, he seemed to thrive on emergency situations and stress. In fact, when life became too quiet, he would create chaos of his own. Although I was married to one man, it seemed like we were living many different lives.”

Shertz had a unique ability to understand, connect and affect people. “When Max’s gaze found you,” said an admirer, “you felt transparent, as if he were peering right through you. He would challenge your beliefs, and, if there were any flaws in your logic, you would soon find yourself cornered in your own mind. He was also a consummate storyteller. His deep voice and animated expressions drew listeners into the tale, often infused with drama, humor and surprising surrealistic endings.”

Wherever he lived, Shertz was a lover of life and his love extended to nature and animals of all types.

He loved training big dogs, birds, cats and monkeys. He trained his Macaws and Parrots to talk, his Dobermans and Great Danes to do tricks, and his various monkeys to entertain visitors. He also had an Ocelot and even a Bob Cat.

Always on the move

A switch flipped, and the family returned to Southern California. Shertz opened the Art Forum, a gallery in Sherman Oaks, which he shared with his partner, Boris Deutsch, a friend he had worked with many years earlier, plus other artists and himself. Although the gallery turned a profit, the strain of painting, entertaining and managing proved too taxing. “Each time Max finished with a situation,” says Edi, “he sought a different environment for a new series of adventures.”

In 1969, he closed the gallery and returned to New York, living in Manhattan, exhibiting in galleries and lecturing on art. Eventually, even though the future shone bright, he grew disillusioned, skeptical of the art scene.

Shertz perceived art dealers as mercenaries, hungry for the next star, viewing paintings like merchandise for sale, ready to crush his creativity. People loved his art, were interested in buying, and also wanted to be entertained by him. Shertz needed time to create at his own pace without the pressure of producing, and he wanted acceptance for his art rather than for his personality.

Edi tracked nearly 50 family moves until this point, with and without other women traveling in tow, along with his menagerie of pets and growing children. Dana, the eldest child, enrolled in three different schools during third grade. Stable, life was not.

In 1970, the nomad moved to San Francisco, a city then bursting with creativity. He transformed himself into his image of an artist, sporting long hair, a beard, fur coats and sandals. He wore jewelry crafted by Native Americans and himself and exotic, colorful clothing. During that period, the family lived well in a big house on Union Street. Friends and shopkeepers referred to him as “the mayor of Union Street.”

People flocked to Shertz’s studio, mesmerized by both the art and the high-energy artist. Privately Shertz compared the spirit of his art to that of Claude Debussy, his favorite composer. His entourage included friends, associates, patrons, students, other artists, writers, and many young women.

A friend told this story of one party: “Eight beautiful young women were in the pool, some naked, and professional athletes Joe Namath and Fred Williamson were making cocktails on the patio. Inside the studio, Shertz was painting and 10 people were watching, mesmerized by what seemed like magic. Andres Segovia was sitting in a corner serenading Shertz with the most beautiful guitar music I have ever heard.”

The Shertz family moved to a bigger Victorian house nearby, with three floors and a view of the bay. Edi managed a law office, and the children attended private schools, where Shertz taught art and created art. For the first time, the family was leading a somewhat settled, stable, grounded life. Then, in 1971, lightning hit.

The bolt was a 23-year old art student from Normandy, France. Christiane Flers, who had arrived three years earlier, and was studying at the Art Institute in San Francisco. A friend introduced her to Shertz. She fell in love with the art and the artist, moved in and never left.

Loving women – especially his muse

Shertz loved women and often said that women taught him everything. Women involved with Shertz felt that they had his focused attention. His relationship with Edie was as intense as it was with Christiane, but each different, like two paintings. Shertz’s relationship with his children and grandchildren was also unique in inspiration as well as alienation. Christiane lived with Edi and the children for nearly 18 years. She pursued her studying and love of art with what she considered the most magnificent art teacher she had known.

Shertz taught art throughout his lifetime, and he gave his friends life lessons, regardless of whether they wanted them. He thought that everyone should live life with candor and honesty, be sexually free, attack the status quo and live with reckless abandon. He never spared anyone the truth, although he dismissed his own flaws as non-existent.

“When I met Max,” Christiane says, “I felt at home immediately. He was like a Zen teacher, his art an act of meditation. I could not help falling in love. There he was, coming out of his studio, a brush in his hand, a magnificent figure, vibrant and electrifying. He told me to remove my shoes before entering his studio. I asked him why, and while I was being argumentative, I was removing my shoes. That’s pretty much how my relationship was with Max for 38 years. Friends warned that it would not be easy to be with Max, and maybe it would be heartbreaking, but I followed my instinct and never regretted it.”

Christiane describes Shertz’s paintings as “Deceptively simple, so lyrical, the images like notes dancing on the paper. The pure colors are impressionistic. He transfers the imprint of his joyous spirit on the paper or canvas. He was full of life, and his paintings reflected the ecstasy of every moment lived to the fullest. It is as if there was a strong connection with the musical background on his mother’s side.”

“Art is simplicity, purity and truth.” Max Shertz

Shertz disliked the art media as a group and critics in particular, says his son Dana. “When he encountered art critics, he enjoyed telling them how little they knew about the artistic process. Some of them, including Lawrence Alloway and Harold Rosenberg, visited his studios in New York and Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was there at different times, listening to them praise his work. I would grow frustrated when Dad tired of playing nice. He would yell, scream, and throw them out of his studio, telling them never to write about him or his work. They all complied.”

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at Berkeley; and the Cultural Center in Manila, the Philippines, acquired Shertz’s work.

Even after working for fame, and finding some, Shertz preferred privacy. “There are many unsavory truths about my father’s reclusive nature,” says Dana. “Truths like his truculent personality, his lack of patience or regard for anyone who disagreed with him and his sometimes violent temper.”

With his wife, kids and mistress in tow, Shertz decided it was time again for solitude. They moved to Lucas Valley, a tranquil town in the Bay Area. Shertz created soapstone and clay models for bronze sculptures. His painting leaned toward figurative expressionism, with bold defined shapes and forms. Abruptly bored with serenity, Shertz moved the clan back to Los Angeles – followed by six months in New York, a short stay in Fort Lauderdale and a return to San Francisco.

When renting any lodging, Shertz had to explain the presence of two apparent wives. He claimed that Edie and Christiane were sisters with different mothers. Christiane’s mother lived in France, which explained her French accent. Coincidentally Christiane and Edie’s mothers were both born January 1, 1908.

The family changes

“Max was the sun and the moon, the creator and the destroyer, comedy and drama, lover and hater, an enfant terrible,” says Christiane. He had tumultuous, sometimes volatile, relationships with his children. Son Dana married in 1978, the year Christiane gave birth to Jedediah, his fifth child. Daughter Marla was working as a casting director, and daughter, Nilda, the youngest, had fled. Shertz held tight to his second son, Joshua, continuing to fan family fires.

Shertz was not a religious man, and he never wanted to be labeled a Jewish artist. “A true artist has no color, no race, no country,” he said. Yet in 1976, Mt. Zion Hospital, San Francisco, commissioned him to create two murals. The larger one, “A Celebration of Judaism,” traced 4,000 years of Jewish history. The San Francisco Chronicle called the mural the city’s first public art based on Judaism. George Moscone, Mayor of San Francisco, presided at the dedication ceremony, where Shertz said: “This is a work of love. I hope it will express the inspirational magic, the uplift of man’s eyes and spirits, in the strength of the creator.

Ahead of his time – until time finally caught up with him

In the 1980s, during a four-year stint in Los Angeles, Shertz produced increasingly bolder, more daring, more abstract work. He painted at all hours and entertained often, combining the two as guests flowed into his studio.

One evening Shertz entertained a few friends, including Eden Maxwell, a young artist he had just met, who would become Shertz’s apprentice for 10 years.

The creative pace was exerting its toll on the 50-year-old artist. Again, with commercial success a possibility in Los Angeles, Shertz moved up the coast and invited Maxwell to join the family. “We shook hands on our plans to scout out places to live in the Bay Area,” Maxwell says. “The next evening, seated in his classic BMW, Max and I drove north under a full moon, and in a very scary episode, he had a stroke at the wheel. Max and his family eventually settled in a huge place at the bottom of a small canyon in Larkspur. I found a houseboat in Sausalito. Months later, Max said, ‘Kid, I owe you.’”

While Shertz was recovering, he opened and closed an art gallery on Union Street – and closed and opened some personal relationships at the same time. Having experienced a major illness, he felt finite and began to sacrifice activities and relationships that no longer served

Moving on

Edi decided to move on. With her four children grown; and Shertz, Christiane and Jed bonding as a family, Edi says. “I had been thinking about leaving for a long time. Shertz often said that if you don’t know what you want, you get what you don’t want. I wanted more independence. More than 30 years of living with someone who is forever, creating chaos of both beauty and intensity was difficult. Max and Christiane grew closer together, and he and I drifted apart.”

Christiane and Shertz returned to Los Angeles, where life was frugal; only one wife was earning money. Christiane’s income sustained them – and Shertz sold a collection of antiques. Despite financial and other tensions, Shertz married Christiane in Reno, with son Jed, age 13, as best man. On their second wedding anniversary, they separated, Christiane taking custody of Jed. Following his father’s example, Shertz ignored his youngest son during the separation.

Although both Shertz and Christiane occupied Los Angeles, they stayed apart. For the first time sans wives and children, Shertz immersed himself in his work like never before. In a series of essays titled “Frontiers of Ecstasy,” he wrote about his artistic process, which he called “Art of the Unconscious.”

“There is great evidence from the past that art is prologue and that fine art is always a movement outward from within. It catches even the flickering light and exposes the slightest glimmer in a vast gulf of darkness. Art is simplicity, purity and truth. True art comes from a source unknown to the mind, is a gift coming through you. Your unconscious.” Max Shertz

Even as Shertz’s work followed a transformation from figurative to abstract, he used electrifyingly pure colors. He said that he felt images flow through him as if he were a channel, comparing the process to that of classical composers.

Finally finding a focus, a dedication, a commitment, Shertz believed he had “unleashed his inner artist” and was “sitting by the window of the unconscious,” glimpsing the frontiers of an ecstasy that informed his new work. He traded paintings for lodging. He developed a connection to Henry Hopkins, a distinguished museum director and educator who played a leading role in establishing Los Angeles’ art scene. Even as Hopkins said of Shertz’s work, “His art of the unconscious takes automatism and abstraction to a new dimension, making a breakthrough in 20th-century art,” Hopkins realized that the artist was as difficult as he was talented.

Hopkins offered Shertz a one-man show one year hence at the revered Armand Hammer Museum of Art, but Shertz could not fathom waiting a year, not even for a museum so acclaimed. “I might be dead tomorrow,” he told Hopkins. This invitation marked Shertz’s last opportunity for an important museum show.

To keep him afloat, Christiane paid Shertz’s rent and bills and occasionally even bought art from her estranged husband and lover.

Shertz wrote, “This society is wrong for me as an artist, and I cannot remain unaffected. Artists now reflect the culture of consumerism and never challenge it. When art sinks to the level of merchandise, it loses the greater part of its truth, and then loses its purity and essence.” His inability to withstand economic pressures was not uncommon for an artist of any generation. Like many kindred souls, he balked at commerce rather than basking in the sustenance, it might have given.

When Eden Maxwell watched Shertz paint, he says, “My eyes opened to a new way of looking at the world. I grasped that magic was somehow pouring out in each unpremeditated and seemingly effortless brushstroke. This was my first lesson in how fine art was born from the master’s hand. Shertz likened painting to music, and it soon became my job to provide the D.J. mix, which was mostly jazz, blues and rock. Max’s oral presentation skills and writing were no less visceral or powerful than his visual art. Max was a creator whose intuitive gift elevated anything he touched.”

“Now and then, as he was painting, he would say, ‘Come here and put your palm on my shoulder.’ I did, and the intuitive heat running down his arm was palpable and powerful. This was the life force and energy of art flowing through the master artist,” Maxwell says.

“I’d watch the master at work at the easel. Swirls of colors would coalesce into harmony, into fantastic objects from other dimensions. Sometimes realistic images would emanate from the limitless great unconscious—to my amazement as well as his.”

After two years apart, Shertz and Christiane took up again. Four times they traveled to France, painting together on location, socializing with locals, both artists and not. With Christiane interpreting, Shertz soaked up the food, the history and the beauty. Yet, Christiane remembers, “We fought. Max was proud to say that not one day went by without us having an argument.”

In 2000, Shertz’s health was deteriorating. He spent his last years in seclusion, creating some important work, which has never been viewed by the public. Eventually, Shertz was too weak to paint. Doctors told him he did not have long to live, but he survived nearly another decade.

During the last five years of his life, his children tried, with varying degrees of success, to reconcile with their father. He endured both diabetes and heart disease, and died at age 76 at home in Los Angeles on October 15, 2009, with Christiane at his side.

Shertz wished to avoid comparisons to other artists, their financial success or the praise of critics and collectors. He wanted his work to be viewed without judgment, comparison or attachment of any kind, but with an open heart and the desire and will to take a journey into this artist’s creations.

“In a world of gossip websites, it is interesting to think of my dad as a sort of higher-intellect Renaissance man who rejected fame, fortune and even his own family in favor of the purity of his solitary art,” says his son Dana. “I sometimes wonder how much greater acclaim he might have received, if not for his ego, ill temper and impatience. Now that Max is out of his own way, his great body of work should finally get the acclaim that it so richly deserves.”