Maxa was born to a middle class Parisian family. Father, Max, A physician, was one of the founders of the international Zionist organization.
With her friends, Lopez Mezquita and Jules Adler she studied the methods of oil painting, sketching and acrylic painting. During World War I, she stayed in Spain with her father. In 1924, she presented her works in the official Salon as part of the colonial exposition in Strasbourg. In 1937, she contributed her decoration to the Palestinian Pavilion in the Paris World Fair of .
In 1939, she participated in a French art exhibition which was held in England. During World War II, she left France and moved to the United State where she took part in several exhibitions in New York, also she used her journey to continue study painting in the New York City College. As she returns to Paris in 1946, Nordau proceeded painting and presenting her work in private galleries. Nordau traveled many times, and she has been in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Greece, Morocco and other countries. When she died in 1991, she left a large number of portraits and several illustrations.
Although she was indeed French, Maxa Nordau is considered to be a part of what is called “School of Paris”, a group of non French artists, who worked in Paris before and during World War II. Most of Nordau paintings are portraits, women’s portraits in particular. The influence from her many journeys to the Middle East and to other Arabic countries are well shown in the characters she describes in her paintings. The orient fascinated Nordau, and she described the Arab women in a very vivid and colorful manner.
Nordau wasn’t the only artist who had an interest in the orient, this theme was very common among Jewish artists in the beginning of the 20th century, specifically artists from Zionists families who had visited Palestine and some even left Europe and came to live and work in the raising Jewish state. Nordau also dealt with traditional themes such as still life, landscape and interior in her paintings. Her unique method combines the techniques and the conceptual ideas of her time, and one might find in her works an interesting combination of realism, primitivism and the influence of expressionism and fauvism. In many ways, her work captures the spirit of her time.
Nordau’s landscape paintings mostly describe an oriental landscapes- warm climate, Arabic architecture and pine trees. Her interior paintings are very humble and simple, and yet, full of warmth and domestic grace. In her illustrations she express other sides of her personality- she proves in her illustrations a sense of humor and somewhat childishness, which comes in an interesting conflict with her very mature and profound portraits. Maxa Nordau’s body of work is very versatile and intriguing, and the interest in this artist has grown in the past few years.