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WILHELM UHDE (1874 - 1947)


Considered above all as a collector, writer and art critic, the German Wilhelm Uhde was a major figure in the history of Art in the first half of the 20th century. Born in Germany, it is in Paris, city of light and place of creation, that he chooses to make a career. He played a pivotal role in the defense of so-called naive art. He became enthusiastic before the hour for cubism, marveled at Pablo Picasso, fascinated by Braque, discovered the Douanier Rousseau and was ecstatic in front of the works of Séraphine de Senlis. His collection is eclectic and varied. However, the artworks that compose it have a whole common denominator: they were chosen with the heart by their collector for their spontaneous relationship with the world, their power to reveal the imperceptible. MyStudiolo retraces the life of this autodidact with exceptional flair in :

6 key dates 4 artworks 3 anecdotes 1 quote

1904 Uhde settles in Paris, he is thirty years old. He then discovered the Louvre, visited the galleries of Ambroise Vollard and Paul Durand-Ruel, met Gertrude and Leo Stein. He began to buy his first paintings and chose to sell some of them in order to earn a modest living and thus subsist in Paris. This is how he discovered, in Père Soulié's shop, a painting from Picasso's blue period, then still unknown, and bought it for 10 francs.

1905 It is the year of the scandal of the Automn Fair at the Grand Palais with its "wild animal cage". Uhde is then one of the few to defend this group, the Fauvists. He fell in love with Braque's glowing landscapes and became his first Parisian collector. This date marks the beginning of his support and accompaniment in the artist's Cubist adventure.

1907 Uhde meets Henri Rousseau, called the Douanier, his first “modern Primitive master”. In "from Bismarck to Picasso" he says that it was Robert Delaunay's mother who took him to the artist while he was painting "the snake charmer". During his visits, he was able to follow the completion of this painting. The following year, he organized his first solo exhibition in his Montparnasse gallery and published his first monograph two years later.

1914 The First World War is declared. As a German, he had to flee France in a hurry, without having been able to entrust his magnificent collection including works by George Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jean Metzinger, Fernand Léger, Raoul Dufy, Marie Laurencin, Séraphine Louis and Henri Rousseau. His paintings were confiscated by the French State and found themselves sold off at auction at the Hôtel Drouot in 1921.

1924 Weimar Germany is unlivable for Uhde. He returned to France accompanied by the painter Helmut Kolle, his companion. Although he has partly reconstructed his collection, Uhde turns to those he calls first the "sacred hearts" and then "the modern primitives". He then fights for the recognition of the heirs of Henri Rousseau: André Bauchant, Camille Bombois, Jean Eve, Louis Vivin, and especially Séraphine Louis, his own housekeeper, whose mystical works fascinate him.

1947 Uhde died at the age of 72 in his Parisian apartment in Place des Vosges. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, he had found himself stripped of his German nationality by Nazi Germany because of his peaceful writings and his works devoted to painters qualified as "degenerated" by the Third Reich. The last work published the year of his death was "Five primitive masters", an important work devoted to Rousseau, Séraphine, Vivin, Bauchant and Bombois.


George Braque, Landscape of la Ciotat, 1906

Camille Bombois, Fat farmer on her ladder, 1935

Helmut Kolle , Lesender jockey, 1926

Séraphine de Senlis, Leaves, 1928



  • In 1905, Uhde made an acquisition which would have serious consequences. Exhibited in front of the door of Père Soulié's shop, he bought for 10 francs a female nude with yellow hair which he particularly liked. The signature, which begins with a P, was unknown to him. His friends at the Dôme bar consider it as a pale imitation of Cézanne. But a few days later, Uhde met the painter at the Lapin Agile in Montmartre, who was none other than Pablo Picasso! According to legend, he would have been so overjoyed to meet someone who had finally acquired one of his works that he would have fire shot in the air.

  • When he met Henri Rousseau, his first "modern primitive master", his works described as childish earned him a lot of mockery. Uhde understands and appreciates his work. He decided to defend it and thus organized his first personal exhibition in 1908. But it was a failure! The address of the gallery was not indicated on the invitation card. Confused, Uhde bought himself a work Vue de Malakoff, 1908 for 40 francs.

  • Settled in the city of Senlis in 1912, Uhde attended a reception with his painter friends. Bored a little, he stands aside. Suddenly, he is ecstatic in front of painted apples "made of beauty and come true". This is none other than the work of Séraphine Louis, the housekeeper. He was fascinated by the brilliance of fruits painted with ripolin - a lacquer for household dishes - on wooden panels. The myth of Séraphine de Senlis was born. This is Uhde's most authentic find.


" I don't collect to sell, I sell to collect"

Wilhelm Uhde

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