Painter and sculptor Max Sokol (né Mordka Ajzik) was born into a Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland on 2 April 1895 and studied art in Stettin and Berlin under Prof Hugo Lederer. Following Hitler's rise to power, he was forced to flee Germany for England in 1937, settling in the north-west London area, so densely populated by German-speaking refugees that it was known locally as ‘Finchleystrasse’. In the same year, he first showed work at Ben Uri Gallery in the 'Annual Exhibition of Works by Jewish Artists', where a special section dedicated to his work showcased eleven of his sculptures including a portrait of Chairman Adolph Michaelson,‘Devotion’ (purchased by member subscription for the Ben Uri Collection in 1948), and ‘Mother and Child in Storm’ (New College, Oxford); he went on to participate in a further 15 Ben Uri exhibitions during his lifetime. In 1938, Sokol exhibited a bronze, ‘Reclining Nude’ (possibly shown at Ben Uri as ‘Reclining Woman’ the previous year) in the important exhibition of 'Twentieth Century German Art' at New Burlington Galleries, London, intended as a riposte to the 1937 Nazi so-called ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition in Munich.
Sokol was also a member of the cultural refugee organisation, the Free German League of Culture (FGLC), founded in 1939 in Downshire Hill, and his work was included in FGLC exhibitions including ‘Artists Aid Jewry’ (1943) at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. In the same year, his portrait bust of A. Cherne (presented to the Ben Uri Collection) was exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts 82nd Annual Exhibition, and then at Ben Uri Gallery in 1945. He maintained a close friendship with artist Alfred Wolmark (Ben Uri's Vice-President 1923–56), creating a portrait bust of him, and another of Joseph Leftwich (also closely associated with Ben Uri); the latter was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1945 and both were purchased for the Ben Uri Collection. Sokol also served as a member of Ben Uri's Arts Committee between 1949 and 1968.
Max Sokol died in London, England on 21 June 1973. His sculpture can also be found in New College, Oxford, and a large collection of works – including a self-portrait, two portraits of his daughter and several symbolic figurative works including ‘Return from Captivity (Reunion)’, were presented to St. Anne's College, University of Oxford by his daughter, Professor Diana Deutsch, a former graduate of the college.