The Munich-based historical painter Gabriel von Max was born in Prague in 1840. He had first painting lessons with his father, the sculptor Joseph Max. Between 1855 and 1857 he was enrolled at the Prague Art Academy, a year later he transferred to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, where Karl Mayer, Christian Ruben and Carl Wurzinger were among his teachers. In 1863 Gabriel von Max changed to the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where he studied under, among others, Carl Theodor von Piloty until 1867. Fellow students of von Max in Munich included, for instance, Franz von Defregger and Hans Makart, through whom Gabriel von Max also became acquainted with Franz von Lenbach. In 1878 Gabriel von Max was appointed professor for historical painting at the Munich Academy, however, he resigned from this post in 1883. In 1884 Gabriel von Max joined the Theosophical Society Germania. The foundation ceremony of the German branch of the Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875, took place at the painter‘s mansion on Lake Starnberg. On December 2 in 1900 Gabriel von Max became member of the Bavarian nobility.
Through his contact with the theosophical movement Gabriel von Max developed strong interest in somnambulism and hypnotism. The artworks of Gabriel von Max are genre- and historical paintings characterized by allegorical-mystical and spiritualistic-religious themes. Besides painting Gabriel von Max was also occupied with the anthropology of apes, for his studies he build a large enclosure for a monkey herd at his residence in Ammerland. Additionally, he compiled a scientific collection of 60,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects.
Gabriel von Max was married twice. With his first wife Emma Kitzing, whom he married in Munich in 1873, he had two sons, Cornelius Max and Columbus Max, who also became painters. Gabriel von Max died in Munich in 1915.