Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler



Art dealer, writer and art critic with an exceptional career, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler was aware that his experience was unique in the history of modern culture: detecting a pictorial revolution, he became the art dealer and the promoter of the four musketeers of cubism: Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and Derain. MyStudiolo traces the life of a visionary who knew how to understand the issue of cubism, a movement freeing itself from reality and perspective, in : 6 key dates 4 artworks 3 anecdotes 1 quote

1907 Coming from a Jewish family of the German bourgeoisie, Daniel-Henry arrived in Paris to open his gallery. He acquired his first works at the Salon des Indépendants where the Fauvists were well represented and the Cubists made their debut. The works of Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain and Braque particularly hold his attention. His fixed idea: to defend the artists of his generation.

1908 On the advice of his compatriot Wilhelm Uhde, Kahnweiler visits Pablo Picasso's studio. He discovers in a corner a strange painting: The Ladies of Avignon. He is captivated by the rupture and the power of this work with his five naked women with deformed bodies. Begins a collaboration that will last, with stops, until the artist's death.

1914 The war breaks out. Refusing to fight France, Kahnweiler is declared a deserter. He went into exile in Switzerland and wrote many texts on art. His goods and his gallery are placed under sequestration because they are considered "German goods". Over the course of the conflict, for lack of cash, he could no longer pay the salaries of his artists. Now he has to let them go to other art dealers.

1920 Kahnweiler opens a new gallery on rue d'Artstog under the name of his partner: Galerie Simon. All his work as an art dealer needs to be redone. However, he returned to the front of the stage and also overcame the economic crises of 1922 and 1929. He managed to get back his painters and welcomed a new generation of artists: André Beaudin, Eugène de Kermadec and above all André Masson, point of contact with surrealism . Only Picasso is missing.

1921 The sale of Kahnweiler's paintings seized during the war takes place. Hundreds of works signed Vlaminck, Derain, Picasso, Braque, Gris, Léger or Van Dongen are auctioned at ridiculous prices, for repairs not paid by Germany to France. The Portrait of Lucie Kahnweiler by Derain, sold for 18,000 francs, obtains the best price. The Man with the Guitar, by Picasso, estimated at 2,000 francs, flies away for 3,100 francs. Gray does not exceed 850 francs. Louis Aragon buys a Braque for 240 francs.

1941 The Second World War forces him again to leave Paris and take refuge in Limousin to escape persecution of the Jews this time. He sells his gallery to his daughter-in-law and collaborator Louise Leiris to protect it from the aryanization of Jewish property. The post-war period is more peaceful. Especially since Picasso now makes him his one and only art dealer. Here he is the master's ambassador, a lecturer specializing in cubism in demand around the world. It is the consecration of cubism.

André Derain, Portrait of Lucie Kahnweiler, 1913

Pablo Picasso, The Ladies of Avignon, 1907 Fernand Léger, The 4 Acrobats, 1942-44 Juan Gris, The Guitar, 1913


  • As the art dealer Durand-Ruel did with the impressionists, Kahnweiler offered his artists a contract from 1910. He claimed exclusivity from them and set the selling price of the works by himself. In exchange, each receives a monthly salary, whether the paintings are sold or not. It is surely this method that made cubism possible, artists not having to deal with material contingencies.

  • Nothing predisposed Kahnweiler to become an art dealer. All the members of his family only swore by finance. He was sent to Paris in 1902 as an intern at the Stock Exchange. During his lunch break, he would go to the Louvre or the Luxembourg Museum. He finally finds his true vocation: art dealer.With 25,000 francs in his pocket, he gave himself a year to set up a gallery and make a living from it.

  • Kahnweiler got into the habit, unprecedented at the time, of taking a photo of each artwork in the gallery. He understood that he had to rely on his circle of fellow collectors to bring the gallery to life and thus send the pictures of the new arrivals to those who cannot come. This also allows him to make known the work of his artists in foreign magazines.

« What would have we become if Kahnweiler hadn't had a business savvy? »

insisted Pablo Picasso

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