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Max Grumbacher, an Austrian immigrant, dreamed of coming to America – a place of freedom of expression and opportunity. In his homeland, he was known as a master “Pinselmacher” (brush maker) for his creative ingenuity in brush technology, a skill he would bring to America that would eventually set the standard for brushmaking. As a young entrepreneur in 1903, Max started his brush business at his kitchen table in New York City, selling his products door to door to artists, sign painters and theatrical scenery painters. During this time, live performances were thriving in over 100 theatres in the city and scenery painters had a tremendous need for brushes to design backdrops. Additionally, sign painters needed high-quality brushes to accommodate the hundreds of stores that painted price specials and advertisements on their windows.
As Max’s reputation for quality brushes grew, so did his business. He incorporated the business in 1905, just two years after he started making brushes in New York, and soon hired and trained new brush makers. Max recognized that his competitors were not meeting customer needs, and he responded. Leveraging strong communication and adapting to the market, he developed both the widest range of brushes in the world, and manufacturing techniques that set strict standards to ensure consistent high quality and durability of every brush crafted.
Max continued to listen to his customers as business grew. Many had started to request premier paint that would match the quality of his brushes. Max qualified a partner in Germany who manufactured artist paint to his exemplary standards, and began to import and sell artist color. Sales grew steadily. By the early 1930s, Max began to manufacture artist color in the United States, first under a licensing agreement, then under his own brand, thereby becoming the leading supplier of art materials in the United States. Grumbacher paints earned the same reputation for quality as the brushes, and an American tradition was born.
In 1939 Max retired and sold his business to three nephews who, along with their heirs, managed it with verve and passion. In 1978, Grumbacher was sold to Times Mirror, a publishing company, and then to its current owner, Chartpak Inc. in 2006.
Over the years, the Grumbacher Company has continued to innovate and set standards in the art materials industry. The Company developed Grumbacher CEL colors, which were to become the industry standard for 1930s cartoon animators. Movies such as Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Fantasia were created using Grumbacher CEL colors. Another major innovation was the development of MAX oil paint, the market’s first water-miscible oil. By slightly altering the molecular structure of the oil, MAX could clean up easily with simple soap and water, yet retained the richness, flow and feel of traditional professional oil paint. In addition, although Grumbacher’s early brushes used traditional hairs, new products are designed with respect to environmental and ethical concerns by making better use of the latest generation of alternative synthetic materials.
Commitment to excellence has always been the hallmark of the Grumbacher company. Max clearly articulated the spirit of dedication to quality and service that his brand represented in a statement made when he incorporated his business:
“[Grumbacher] is built on the principle of rendering a service to you who practice art in all its branches….We take pleasure in the knowledge that our products are conscientiously and skillfully made; that they fill a need; give long, efficient service, and are a source of satisfaction to you.”
– Max Grumbacher, founder of Grumbacher
Max spoke those words in 1905. Today, Chartpak takes pride in upholding Max’s tradition of excellence and continues to manufacture Grumbacher products under the strict standards established by Max.
The Max Grumbacher Gallery was created in dedication to his service to the art materials industry and unwavering commitment to quality.